7 Secret Uber Features You Should Know About

7 Secret Uber Features You Should Know About

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Uber has announced a new feature to its rider app that will simplify the pick-up process, called live location sharing. But that’s not the only change it’s made recently.

As a frequent rideshare passenger (and driver), I’ve collected a number of features Uber offers that most people don’t know about. Some make your life simpler, others provide more security, and some even save you money. Here are seven of my favorite.

1. Live Location Sharing

Uber announced this feature recently, and it should make the pick-up process smoother for both riders and drivers. In the past, when you called for a ride on the Uber app, your driver navigated to the exact location you specified, but this made finding your passenger especially difficult at concerts, stadiums and basically any situation with a lot of congestion.

Now, drivers will still navigate toward your set pick-up location but they’ll also see where you are on the map in relation to their current location. So if you tell your driver that you’re half a block down the street, he’ll be able to see exactly where you are, even if you’re slurring your words.

 

2. Share Your Trip Location

Speaking of sharing, Uber also lets you share details of your trip with a friend or family member. I use this feature all the time when I’m meeting up with pals for coffee or lunch. If they have the Uber app, they get a notification that says, “Harry wants you to follow his Uber ride.” If don’t have the Uber app, they get a text message. Either way, they can follow along in real time or check in periodically to see how far away I am.

3. Visa Local Offers

Visa Local Offers is a relatively new partnership between Visa and Uber that allows you to earn Uber ride credits on purchases with a linked credit card. Unlike other points-earning partnerships, though, you don’t actually have to ride with Uber to earn credits.

All you have to do is add a credit card to your Uber account (here’s a video tutorial) and opt in to the Visa Local Offers program. You’ll start getting instant notifications whenever you spend at partner businesses.

You can look up a list of participating stores and restaurants in the Uber app. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many great places are on there: Here in Los Angeles, they’ve got everything from Whole Foods and Petco to Wurstküche and Tatsu Ramen. And the best part is that most of them get you 10% back.

The credits you earn work in conjunction with credits from your American Express Platinum Card, and you can even use the credits to cover the cost of your driver’s tip.  The only downside is that you have to let Uber and Visa exchange details of your transactions.

4. Redeem Uber Visa Card Points in the App

We’ve already covered the details of the new Uber Visa Card from Barclaycard here at TPG, but it’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of this card. It’s the only no-annual-fee card that offers up to $600 in cell-phone insurance and $50 off subscription services (after $5,000 in annual spend). Since I break my phone at least once a year and pay for Netflix, Amazon Prime and more, this card is basically paying me to use it.

One of the cool features I noticed while taking an Uber ride the other day is that as soon as you’re approved, you can start paying for rides with your card and start redeeming your Uber Visa Card points for ride credits in the app. I love traveling for free, and while it’s usually easy to redeem points and miles for hotels and flights, I always end up with a lot of Uber charges. Now I’ll be able to redeem my points for Uber ride credits to make my vacations 100% free!

 

5. Add Multiple Stops to Your Journey

In the past, it was kind of a hassle to make an extra stop on your Uber ride, because there wasn’t a seamless way to add a destination to your GPS route. But Uber now gives passengers the option to add up to two additional stops once you’re underway. This is important for drivers too, since they often receive their next trip requests based upon the final destination that’s entered in the Uber app (basically Uber is lining up their next trip for them).

Uber suggests limiting your stops to three minutes or less, since drivers are only paid around 10 to 15 cents per minute.

In order to add a stop, all you need to do is tap the plus button next to the destination box, and you can do this at any point before or during your ride. You can also add, change or remove a stop from the on-trip screen, which is accessible from the app home screen.

6. Scheduled Rides

Uber’s scheduled-ride feature allows you to schedule a ride anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 days out. All you have to do is tap the appropriate button on the home screen and enter a pickup window and destination.

There are times, like when I’m heading to the airport, when it would be convenient to have a car waiting outside my door exactly when needed, but Uber’s scheduled-ride feature merely initiates a request at the indicated time. So if there are no cars available, you may be out of luck. I much prefer Lyft’s scheduled-ride feature, which is a true scheduled ride and lets drivers bid on a fare when it appears in the queue. So with Lyft, you’re guaranteed a ride, a price and a driver.

7. Leaving Tips

Uber introduced tipping on the Uber app a few months ago, but they don’t make it easy. Once your ride is complete, there’s often a bit of a lag between when the driver ends the trip and when the tipping screen appears. Eventually, a prompt on the bottom of the screen pops up asking you to rate your trip. Once you do that, you’re taken to the next screen, where you can leave a compliment and a tip, if you desire.

You don’t have to tip on every ride, but tipping is a great way to reward drivers for going above and beyond.

Featured image courtesy of studioEAST/Getty Images. All other images courtesy of Uber.

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December 1, 2017 at 12:10AM

Should You Get the Capital One Spark Business $500 Offer?

Should You Get the Capital One Spark Business $500 Offer?

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Recently, Doctor of Credit and others reported a new, somewhat targeted offer for the Capital One Spark Cash Business credit card. This offer looked particularly valuable because it came with a $1,000 signup bonus after you used your card for $10,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. Best of all, it has only a $59 annual fee that is waived the first year.

Unfortunately, the direct link for this offer that was around initially, seems to be gone now. And now, the offer is back where it was before – a generous $500 after you spend $4,500 within three months of account opening

While a $1,000 bonus is better than $500, it’s still easy money you could use to cover any travel expense. But, should you pull the trigger? There are definitely some mixed reviews and reasons to go either way.

 

Advantages of the Capital One Spark Cash Business Card

If you’re looking for a reason to get this card, you won’t have to look that hard. First off, a $500 signup bonus is nothing to sneeze at. If you can get past the fact you need to spend $4,500 in three months or have lots of business expenses already, it may even be a no-brainer. The $59 annual fee (waived the first year) is especially low for a business card. The fact you also earn 2x points on all purchases also makes this card a winner.

As someone who has had seven of this card (between my husband and I) over the years and scored $3,500 in signup bonuses alone, I can also attest to how easy it is to redeem your rewards. Since you can redeem them as statement credits, it’s simple to cash in your points to cover any purchase at a rate of one cent per point.

 

Notable Downsides to Consider

Now comes the bad news. First of all, Capital One is notorious for putting in a hard inquiry with all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – when you apply for one of their cards. If you’re trying to stay under 5/24 to get a new Chase credit card or just don’t want a bunch of hard inquiries, that’s a big downer.

Also, it’s fairly safe to say at this point that Capital One has really cut back on approvals. While my husband and I were easily approved for seven of these cards a few years ago, we’ve been denied, denied, denied the last few times. These days, I pretty much give up on Capital One.

Obviously, another big downside to consider is the fact this card only offers fixed-value credit. You can’t transfer points to loyalty partners like you could with the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, for example. The card is also free from any premier travel benefits like airport lounge access or annual travel credits.

 

The Bottom Line

Before you sign up for any offer, it helps to consider both the pros and cons. Personally, I think this particular offer is a winner provided you love cash back and don’t care how many hard inquiries you have on your credit reports. It’s hard to beat $500 in cash-back, and earning 2x points on everything is pretty sweet. Just remember that you need to meet a steep minimum spending requirement to qualify.

 

Would you go after this targeted offer? Why or why not?

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December 1, 2017 at 12:03AM

AA Claims It’s Almost Solved the Holiday Pilot Crisis, Pilot Union Begs to Differ

AA Claims It’s Almost Solved the Holiday Pilot Crisis, Pilot Union Begs to Differ

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On Wednesday, the story broke that a bug in the American Airlines pilot scheduling system left “more than 15,000 flight” with insufficient crew for flights in the critical holiday period from December 17-31.

Facing a Ryanair-esque mass cancellation— and the resulting backlash — the airline moved quickly to offer to pay pilots “as much as [American Airlines is] allowed to pay them per the contract” so the crisis could be solved. However, these efforts were being hampered by the pilot union filing a grievance about the proposed solution — the situation looked grim.

We were pretty amazed by the update we received Thursday morning indicating that the airline has almost solved the crisis already. According to a statement from an American Airlines spokesperson to TPG “only a few hundred [flights] are currently unassigned to pilots.” Compared to the 200,000 AA flights scheduled for December, this is already a small percentage. But, the airline is still working to get pilots for the remaining affected flights.

That number of open flights continues to decrease thanks to our pilots who are stepping up to the plate and picking up trips to ensure customers are taken care of. It’s another example of why we are thankful to have such an incredible team. In addition, we have more reserve pilots on hand in December than normal months and they provide us with the ability to fly many of the trips that are currently uncovered.

We have not canceled any scheduled flights in December and will continue to work to ensure both our pilots and our customers are cared for.

However, that claim was thrown into question by the Allied Pilots Association statement this afternoon headlined “Thousands of Flights Still Unassigned.” The short statement explains:

The Allied Pilots Association is able to view in real time December flight crew assignments for American Airlines. That data does not support management’s statement regarding December flights that “only a few hundred are currently unassigned to pilots.” In fact, thousands of flights are still listed as unassigned.

So, we went back to the AA spokesperson about the union’s response. Turns out, the two sides are looking at the same data — but it seems that it’s not as cut and dry as either side originally made it seem. Here’s AA’s take:

Our estimates are based on the exact same data. The difference is that we take into account the reserve coverage that we know we have for the month – that coverage is part of every airline’s forward schedule. When reserve is included, and you look at the number of pilots jumping in to sign up for trips, there are only a few hundred flights left that still need to be covered. We are grateful to our pilots for stepping up and taking care of customers.

However, the pilot union grievance still looms large. There’s no indication yet whether the Allied Pilots Association will back off of its union complaint of the airline’s proposed payment solution and allow it to stand. For the sake of all of our holiday trips home, let’s hope it sticks.

Right now though, one thing is for sure: American is looking for a new Director of Crew Scheduling.

The new job listing was posted Tuesday, days after the problem was revealed internally but before it became public knowledge.

Featured image by Tuned_In via Getty Images

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November 30, 2017 at 11:53PM

6 Amazing Destinations for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Honeymoon

6 Amazing Destinations for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Honeymoon

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The engagement is official, the date is set, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a wedding to plan. With all the excitement, the couple, both avid travelers, probably haven’t had a moment to think about where they will honeymoon. But we have.

Here’s where the royal couple might consider for their honeymoon — and why you’ll want to book a trip to one of these dazzling destinations yourself.

Australia

Back in 2003, Harry spent a while being a “jackaroo,” or Australian cowboy, rustling cattle on a ranch in Queensland. Since then, the prince has returned Down Under many times, both on official business and for leisure. His charity, the Invictus Games, which supports injured veterans, will hold its flagship event in Sydney next October. It’s clear the continent has a special place in his heart, so perhaps he’ll consider showing it off to his new bride.

Sal Salis is a luxury eco camp in Western Australia. Image courtesy of Sal Salis.
Sal Salis is a luxury eco camp in Western Australia. Image courtesy of Sal Salis.

The couple seems to be into adventure and roughing it — within reason. So Harry should cast his gaze on Sal Salis, a glamping-style eco lodge in one of the most remote places on earth: Western Australia’s Cape Ranges National Park, a two-hour flight from Perth. The camp has just 16 wilderness tents, including a new Honeymoon Tent, all built according to strict sustainability and low-impact principles that include 100% solar power and carefully managed water usage (guests only get 20 liters per person per day for showering).

The couple can go swimming with whale sharks at Sal Salis in Western Australia. Image courtesy of Sal Salis.
The couple might be there in time to swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. Image courtesy of Sal Salis.

Since the royal couple is getting married in May, they could even jet directly from London down to Perth aboard Qantas’s new non-stop Dreamliner route and stay at the camp during prime season to swim with whale sharks along the pristine Ningaloo Reef.

Ecuador

Harry’s been to Brazil and Chile, but if he wants another stamp in his passport and the chance to study conservation efforts to inform some of his charitable work at home and abroad, Ecuador, one of TPG’s recommended places to go in 2018, should be on the couple’s honeymoon shortlist.

Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forests of Ecuador. Image courtesy of Mashpi Lodge.
Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forests of Ecuador. Image courtesy of Mashpi Lodge.

Mashpi Lodge, perched up in the cloud forests of the biodiverse Chocó region, a three-hour drive from Quito, is the perfect blend of privacy, luxury and mindful management. Like Harry and Meghan’s chance romance, the 22-room Mashpi Lodge almost never came to be. The 3,200 acres of old-growth forest it now stands on was marked for logging. However, Roque Sevilla, a former Quito mayor and amateur naturalist, bought the land in 2001 and created a nature preserve to save it. No trees were cut to build the lodge and Sevilla hired and trained locals to build and staff the lodge; today, the property continues to aid in ongoing conservation efforts as an alternative to jobs in logging and other deforestation activities. Guests can visit the lodge’s huge collection of rare butterflies, hike with a resident biologist, swim in secluded waterfalls and ride the Sky Bike, a raised cableway that crosses through the forest canopy.

India
Given the UK’s long and close history with India, Princess Di’s iconic trip in 1992 and Markle’s own humanitarian travels there, Harry and Meghan might think about touring the subcontinent for their honeymoon. Sure, there are fabulous palaces galore, from the shocking-pink Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur to the romantic Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. But the active and health-focused young couple might instead opt for a retreat at one of the most exclusive spa and wellness centers in the world, Ananda in the Himalayas.

Ananda is a luxury spa and retreat that
Ananda is a luxury spa and retreat that’s a celebrity favorite. Image courtesy of Ananda.

The spa has a royal pedigree — it’s set on the grounds of a Maharaja’s Estate — and has emerged as a favorite of other high-profile jetsetters, including Oprah. It was also the retreat of choice for Harry’s great-granduncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, when he was the Viceroy and then Governor-General of India.

Daily sessions with yoga masters are part of the program at Ananda. Image courtesy of Ananda in the Himalayas.
Daily sessions with yoga masters are part of the program at Ananda. Image courtesy of Ananda in the Himalayas.

Ananda is located in the Himalayan foothills, up winding mountain roads from the spiritual center of Rishikesh. The Beatles came to the town for enlightenment in 1968, and visitors still flock here from all over India — and the world — to participate in the joyful Aarti fire-lighting ritual, which takes place at dusk along the banks of the Ganges. During their stay, the couple can indulge in a multi-day wellness program focused on de-stressing (perfect for post-nuptial decompression), go hiking in the mountains, where they might even spot leopards and, of course, do yoga daily — an activity Markle has declared “my thing.”

Madagascar

Will and Kate might have spent their honeymoon sunning on the shores of super-exclusive North Island in the Seychelles. Don’t be surprised if Harry and Meghan one-up the elder royals, though, by visiting the all-new Miavana, situated on Nosy Ankao, a private island off the northern coast of Madagascar.

Miavana is on a private island off the coast of Madagascar. Image courtesy of Miavana.
Miavana is on a private island off the coast of Madagascar. Image courtesy of Miavana.

The eco-resort has just 14 solar-powered villas, each with its own private pool deck and direct access to the beach. Thanks to included scuba lessons, guests can explore the surrounding coral reefs just offshore. If they get bored, the couple can island-hop, take a flying safari aboard one of the resort’s helicopters, head out on a fishing expedition, or simply visit the lodge’s Cabinet of Curiosities containing “treasures collected from around Madagascar” — dinosaur bones, detritus from sunken ships, elephant bird eggs and so on. Thanks to the remoteness and limited communications signals, the paparazzi is unlikely to be bother them here.

Rwanda

The couple loves Botswana — they spent Markle’s birthday there and the center diamond in her engagement ring comes from the country. However, the actress visited Rwanda last year as an ambassador for Canadian charity World Vision and an advocate for UN Women, and has described the experience as “incredible.” So she might want to take her prince to the country she loves so deeply. If they plan correctly, they might even be able to fly RwandAir’s new A330 service from London Gatwick (LGW) to Kigali (KGL) once it launches May 26.

Bisate Lodge
Bisate Lodge’s huts are set within an ancient volcano. Image courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

Rwanda has no shortage of exciting new places to explore. Wilderness Safaris’ stunning new Bisate Lodge, whose gorgeous thatched villas perch within an ancient volcanic cone in Volcanoes National Park, is the perfect base for trekking to see the country’s endangered mountain gorillas. They might also book a jaunt to One&Only’s Nyungwe House, a luxury complex of six wooden villas set in a working tea plantation, where they can mountain-bike, kayak and track rare chimpanzees through the surrounding primordial rainforest.

Tuscany

Markle is a fervent foodie; in fact, she even named her lifestyle blog, The Tig, after Tignanello, one of her favorite Super Tuscans. Maybe she’ll convince her favorite uomo to take her on an epicurean escape by booking into Rosewood’s Castiglion del Bosco.

The villas at Rosewood
The villas at Rosewood’s Castiglion del Bosco are housed in restored farm buildings. Image courtesy of Rosewood.

The Tuscan resort, situated near the renowned winemaking town of Montalcino, is owned by the Ferragamo family (of fashion fame) and includes an 800-year-old wine estate complete with a medieval castle, a church and even an entire village. Many of the property’s 17th– and 18th-century buildings have been restored and now house the hotel’s 23 suites and 11 private villas. Of those, the newly opened Villa Agresto stands out thanks to the privacy it affords, surrounded as it is by olive groves and its own vineyard, not to mention an enormous (and romantic) fireplace in the living room, a private infinity pool and five bedrooms so the couple can bring along friends if they like. During the day, Markle can indulge in gastronomic pursuits at the hotel’s La Canonica Cooking School, whose classes incorporate locally sourced cheeses and meats as well as vegetables and herbs from the property’s organic kitchen garden.

Featured image by Samir Hussein / WireImage

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November 30, 2017 at 11:03PM

Alitalia Uniforms Get Second Makeover in 2 Years Despite Being Broke

Alitalia Uniforms Get Second Makeover in 2 Years Despite Being Broke

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Alitalia

Pictured is an Alitalia agent on August 11, 2017. Don’t get used to the look because the airline’s uniforms will soon be redesigned — again. Alitalia

Skift Take: Alitalia claims that its second uniform redesign in the past two years will not cost the airline any money. Maybe this kind of thinking is among the myriad reasons it’s now insolvent? Just wondering.

— Dennis Schaal

Alitalia SpA, the bankrupt Italian airline searching for a rescuer, will get new uniforms designed by one of Italy’s most prominent stylists, the second re-branding in two years.

The airline, which is on state support, said Wednesday that Alberta Ferretti will renew the company’s look “to ensure that all personnel, both ground and flight staff, is comfortable in each working environment and throughout any season.” The design collaboration comes at no cost to Alitalia, the carrier said in a statement.

This is the second time in as many years that Italy’s main carrier is re-designing its clothing line. The previous collection, designed by Ettore Bilotta, was presented in June 2016 and inspired by 50s and 60s style.

The Rome-based airline company was declared insolvent May 11 after losing 205 million euros ($243 million) in the first two months of the year and is currently in talks with a number of foreign investors interested in acquiring parts of its business. The state last month extended the deadline for bids to April from November and agreed to pump an additional 300 million euros into the airline through a bridge loan to keep it afloat.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG, EasyJet Plc and Cerberus Capital Management LP are among the entities that have reportedly shown interest. This is the second time in a decade that Alitalia has sought to attract an international partner after filing for bankruptcy.

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Chiara Albanese from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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November 30, 2017 at 10:02PM

TPG Staff Picks: Our Must-Have Travel Essentials

TPG Staff Picks: Our Must-Have Travel Essentials

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If you ask anyone here at The Points Guy, the secret behind having a stress-free mileage run is all in what you pack. In addition to our passports, there are a handful of go-to accessories and gadgets needed to get us through long travel days. With the help of these on-the-go must-haves, we’ve come close to perfecting the art of traveling in comfort and style. Regardless of the time zone or destination, here are a few of the essential items TPG staffers pack for their vacations and business trips alike. 

“I cannot live (or travel) without my Google Fi phone.” — Brian Kelly, The Points Guy

“My favorite travel essential is a paperback book — and I mean actual paper, not a tablet. I treat flight time as a chance to finally catch up on all the reading I haven’t been able to do on the ground, and entering the fictional world of a novel is a lot easier and more rewarding when you aren’t, literally, on the earth.” — Alberto Riva, Managing Editor

“I’m a photography nerd so whenever I go on a big trip I always make sure I take my Canon 6D. Although it’s a bit of a behemoth, it takes incredible pictures that still blow the iPhone out of the water. If you want to up your Instagram game, this is a great tool to do so.” — Brendan Dorsey, Assistant Editor

“I can’t travel without my Bose noise canceling headphones. They’re a little old and outdated at this point, but I couldn’t imagine sitting on a flight without them. Plus, they make music sound so much better.” — Jeff Preis, Editorial Intern

“I need my Macbook with me at all times. It’s super small, lightweight and easy to fit in any bag — no matter how packed full it is. I never know when I’ll need to use it for work, planning my travels or as a power supply to give my phone some extra battery life.” — Emily McNutt, Associate Editor

“I’m an organized person so I have to keep everything in one place. That said, my travel gadget organizer bag is a definite essential when flying anywhere. My organizer includes my headphones, charger and toothbrush. You never know when you’ll have a long layover.” — Alexa Noel, Editorial Intern

“I won’t travel anywhere without my Beats wireless headphones. They’re like having a concert in your ears. I refuse to get on a plane without being able to listen to John Mayer or Mumford and Sons on demand.” — Samantha Rosen, Social Media Editor

“When I learned that I could have a transparent dopp kit, that was a game-changer. No longer would I have to rummage through a black leather bag and sift through tubes and pill boxes to find what I needed when traveling. The version I own also hangs on a towel rack, so it doesn’t take up valuable space on the bathroom sink counter.” — James Cury, VP, Editorial

“I love my Away Carry-On in blush. First of all, I can spot it a million miles away on a baggage carousel amongst all the black suitcases, and somehow it manages to fit clothes for a weekend or a two-week vacation (if I pack very neatly). And the built-in phone charger is a bonus when your flight is delayed for five hours.” — Isabelle Raphael, Photo Editor

“I don’t fly anywhere without my new Apple AirPods. These headphones sound so much better than the earbuds you get in the box with your phone. Plus, I’ve found that they stay in my ears, even after a fitful half-sleep.” — Nick Ellis, Assistant Editor

“Along with my headphones, my favorite travel essential is my portable charger. My aging iPhone 6’s battery is totally and utterly unreliable, and I rely on my phone for my ticket as well as music and camera for inflight photos. I always am sure to charge up and travel with my TPG portable charger.” — Wallace Cotton, Community Manager

“Any flight I’ve had without a neck pillow hasn’t been a good one, so my top travel essential is my Cloudz pillow. They’re pretty cheap (which is good if you leave them behind in hotels like I tend to do) and often available for last-minute purchase at Hudson News. Unlike inflatable ones and those that can contort, this neck pillow is filled with microbeads for maximum comfort and zero weird looks.” — Cindy Augustine, Lifestyle Editor

“I always fly with a 10-foot electrical cord because a) the outlets in hotel rooms are never close enough to the part of the room I actually end up working in, b) it provides another level of protection from frying my laptop and other electronics when I’m in a country with dodgy power, c) I use it to wrap around fragile items I bring back as gifts for friends, and d) sometimes you just have to strangle an obnoxious busboy but have forgotten to pack a garotte.” —Michael Park, Freelance Editor

“After flying, my skin usually feels extra dry and overall I have that stale plane feeling. Nothing feels better than getting to your hotel, taking a shower and putting on a face mask. It instantly brings me back to life and makes me feel refreshed. I love the sheet masks from Sephora (with no mess like a gooey face mask) and they come in different sizes (lips, eyes, full face) and scents like green tea, rose and pomegranate.” — Kate O’ Brien, Director of Marketing & Compliance

“Since June of this year, I have been living on the road. There’s one item that I use daily (even as I write this): the BESTEK Travel Converter/Adapter. In addition to converting power from practically any country, it also serves as a seven-plug extension cord with surge protection. While not sexy, this is certainly a travel essential for me.” — JT Genter, Points and Miles Writer

“I love catching up on movies and TV shows in flight, but I’ll inevitably spend some time daydreaming or doing the puzzles in the seatback magazine as well. I obviously need a soundtrack for that, which is why I’m thankful to be part of a Spotify Premium Family plan. For $14.99 per month, up to six family members get access to their own Premium accounts, with all saved music and playlists kept intact for each user.” — Sarah Silbert, Points and Miles Editor

“Say what you will, but the one thing I can’t travel without is a good bathtub wherever I’m staying. Taking a bath in a big, beautiful tub with all the fixins (boutique toiletries, robe, slippers, cold drink) — especially one with a view — is worth any airport headache encountered on the way. It is one of the most relaxing ways to spend an evening no matter which continent you’re on.” — Jane Frye, Nights & Weekends Editor

“Call me old fashioned, but I don’t travel anywhere without a good book — and not one you download. I like to have a real book on me while I’m on the go. There’s a satisfaction I get by turning each page as I get lost in a story.” Carissa Chesanek, Weekend Writer 

Featured image by Shutterstock

What is your must-have travel essential?

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November 30, 2017 at 10:01PM

A Haunting Story of Sexual Assault and Climate Catastrophe, Decades Ahead of Its Time

A Haunting Story of Sexual Assault and Climate Catastrophe, Decades Ahead of Its Time

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Anna Kavan’s novel “Ice,” a fantasia about predatory male sexual
behavior that takes place during an apocalyptic climate catastrophe, was
first published fifty years ago. (An anniversary edition has just been
released by Penguin Classics.) It was the last novel that Kavan
published before she died in 1968—there have since been a number of
posthumous publications—and it was the culmination of an artistic
trajectory that took her from conventional realism into something
strange and difficult to categorize. That evolution was fuelled by a
peripatetic life that included two unhappy marriages, severe depression,
and a decades-long addiction to heroin. Reading “Ice” is a disorienting
and at times emotionally draining experience, not least because, these
days, one might become convinced that Kavan had seen the future.

The story of “Ice” is reported by a nameless narrator who claims to be a
former soldier and explorer. We soon realize that he is entirely
unreliable, and perhaps mentally unstable. “Reality had always been
something of an unknown quantity to me,” he confesses early on. He takes
medication for headaches and insomnia; it produces “horrible dreams”
that are “not confined to sleep only.” The book has a febrile,
hallucinatory disregard for conventional storytelling, and a habit of
blurring the lines between the literal and the metaphorical. Not one
character is named; with a single exception, none of the settings are
identified beyond the barest details.

The plot, such as it is, follows the narrator’s obsessive pursuit of a
young woman. (She’s twenty-one at the novel’s outset, but he refers to
her as “the girl” throughout.) Her character is never fully developed:
she remains a mostly empty vessel for the narrator’s desire—a “glass
girl” of “albino paleness” with “glittering hair.” Meanwhile, walls of
ice are closing in on the habitable world, creating mayhem. “The
situation was alarming, the atmosphere tense, the emergency imminent.”

The narrator must also contend with a rival, a powerful warlord, known
as the warden, who is the head of an insurgency that is somehow involved
in the global chaos. (The politics of the apocalypse are vague.) The
girl is claimed first by one of these men and then the other. As the
novel progresses, there are intimations that the warden and the narrator
are no more than two halves of the same myopic, macho whole: “Between
the two of us she was reduced to nothing; her only function might have
been to link us together.” What both men seem to want most of all is the
right to claim dominance over her. There are several difficult scenes of
sexual assault. “Will-less, she submitted to him, even to the extent of
making small, compliant movements fitting her body to his,” one of these
scenes concludes. “She was dazed, she hardly knew what was happening,
her normal state of consciousness interrupted, lost, the nature of her
surrender not understood.”

The reason for the disorienting vagueness of so much of “Ice” becomes
clear only in retrospect. It is a work of traumatized sexual surrealism,
and its true setting is its author’s haunted imagination.

Anna Kavan was born Helen Emily Woods in 1901 in Cannes, France, to
well-to-do expatriate English parents. Her father, Claude, had inherited
wealth from a family estate in Northumberland; her much younger mother,
also named Helen, married young, and was only eighteen when she gave
birth to her daughter. Kavan was shipped off to boarding schools from
the age of six. Her father committed suicide when she was ten. Her
relations with her mother remained strained for the rest of her life.

At nineteen, with her mother’s encouragement—or coercion, according to
some accounts—Kavan married Donald Ferguson, who was a dozen years her
senior. Kavan’s biographer David Callard suggests that Ferguson may have
been one of her mother’s cast-off lovers. The newlyweds moved to Burma,
where Ferguson was employed by the colonial administration as a railroad
engineer. They had a son in 1922, and were legally divorced in 1928,
though the marriage had effectively ended much earlier. Kavan’s second
novel, “Let Me Alone,” from 1930, offers a fictional account of their
unhappy union: a young bride, repulsed by her controlling husband’s
sexual advances, fends him off for as long as she can before
surrendering. As Callard delicately observes, this novel and later
fictional depictions of the marriage “draw an unflattering portrait of
Donald Ferguson’s lack of erotic finesse.”

Kavan returned to Europe, and she began spending time in the company of
race-car drivers. She found that she shared their love of dangerous
extremes. “I realized they were also psychopaths, misfits who played
with death because they’d been unable to come to terms with life in the
world,” she wrote in the autobiographical story “World of Heroes.” It
was around this time that she was introduced to heroin. She met and fell
in love with the painter Stuart Edmonds; they wed after her divorce from
Ferguson was final. She began to write her early, realistic novels, and
also started to suffer from severe mental-health problems. In the
nineteen-thirties, she attempted suicide multiple times. Her illness
ultimately led to the failure of her second marriage and treatment in a
Swiss sanatorium.

The young woman in “Let Me Alone”—and its sequel, “A Stranger Still”—is
named Anna Kavan. When Helen Woods emerged from her treatment in
Switzerland, she had taken that name for herself. She now had the
spectrally thin physique and the bleached-white hair that would become
characteristic of many of her fictional alter egos. (These features also
appear in her several self-portraits; Kavan painted, too.) Years of
itinerancy followed: Norway, the United States, Indonesia, New Zealand.
On returning to England, in 1943, Kavan came under the care of Karl
Theodor Bluth, a German physician who regulated her dependency on heroin
by legally prescribing her the drug. The two also collaborated on an
allegorical work, “The Horse’s Tale.” Bluth died in 1964.

“Ice” was published three years later, just as the so-called Golden Age
of science fiction, dominated by white men, was giving way to the New
Wave of the sixties and seventies. “Ice” eschews fact-based hard science
in favor of personal dreamscape, and it twists the hackneyed
damsel-in-distress story line prevalent in mid-century space operas into
something eerie and demented. Kavan’s contemporary Lawrence Durrell saw
her as a writer in the lineage of Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes;
others have placed “Ice” in the canon of drug novels, along with Thomas
De
Quincey’s
The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New
World
.” Kavan approved of a reader’s report from her publisher, which
described the book as a “mixture of Kafka and the Avengers.”

In his foreword to the anniversary edition, Jonathan Lethem puts “Ice”
on the same shelf as Edgar Allan Poe, Kobo Abe, and Kazuo Ishiguro. He
also cites J. G. Ballard’s “Crash” as a close cousin. I think that’s
nearest to the mark. Both books are bizarre one-off distillations of
their creators’ distinctive world view—and, in each case, that view is
animated by a corruption of sexual desire.

The novel’s title refers not only to the environmental catastrophe of
the encroaching walls of ice but also to the emotional numbness of the
victimized girl whom the warden and the narrator are vying to possess.
The abuse of the girl and the abuse of the environment stem from the
same driving male impulse for control and dominance. Indeed, the world
and the girl are often described in similar terms. “The defenseless
earth could only lie waiting for its destruction,” the narrator writes,
echoing an earlier passage about the girl: “There was nothing she could
do, no one to whom she could appeal. Abandoned, helpless, she could only
wait for the end.”

At the conclusion of the novel, as he is about to take possession of the
girl, during the world’s final apocalyptic hours, the narrator tells us,
“I was pleased with my achievement and with myself. I did not think
about the killing involved. If I had acted differently I should never
have got here.” He adds, “In any case, the hour of death had only been
anticipated slightly, every living creature would soon perish. The whole
world was turning toward death.” A half century after its first
appearance, Kavan’s fever dream of a novel is beginning to seem all too
real.

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November 30, 2017 at 09:41PM

Elon Musk Looks to Bring High-Speed Transit to O’Hare

Elon Musk Looks to Bring High-Speed Transit to O’Hare

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One of the world’s busiest airports may be getting a direct, high-speed connection to its city center.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced yesterday that the city was putting out a request-for-proposal (RFP) to build a high-speed express connection between O’Hare Airport (ORD) and downtown Chicago. Tesla CEO and Hyperloop creator Elon Musk said his new Boring Company will “compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O’Hare Airport to downtown.”

Currently, the country’s third-busiest airport is accessible by car as well as the city’s public transportation system. Taxis and Ubers can cost between $40 and $60 between O’Hare and downtown. The CTA’s Blue Line connects the airport to the city but it can take 45 minutes to an hour.

Emanuel wants to cut that time down to just 20 minutes and Musk’s concepts could do just that. The Boring Company specializes in constructing underground tunnels so Musk’s “high speed Loop” would presumably be underground.

Chicago officials met with Musk in Los Angeles a few months ago and Musk tweeted over the summer that he was in talks with the city about the project. It’s likely that this wouldn’t be the buzzy Hyperloop that everyone has been talking about but more akin to the “skate” style tunnel that The Boring Company has shown off in videos. Musk said on Twitter that it would “kinda” be like the electric skate system that whisks cars through underground tunnels, unencumbered by traffic.

The city is open to underground and above-ground connections and wants to deliver express service “at least every 15 minutes for the majority of the day.” Proposals are due to the city by January 23 and are to be funded entirely by the proposing company, at no cost to the taxpayer, which means that the project would be financed entirely by fares, advertising or other means.

Featured image courtesy of The Boring Company.

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November 30, 2017 at 09:18PM