In Praise of

Following up on Travel Wednesday, I’m going to focus this Blogosphere Thursday post on a travel blog worth visiting.

I’d like to stipulate that I really like to travel.  It’s not just about the destination for me, it’s about the experience.  I don’t really mind the lines or the process.

I’ve been fortunate in that business travel has often allowed me to collect enough miles to earn status privileges (silver, gold, platinum, etc.) on airlines.  This lets me board early, get upgrades and bonus miles.  With the miles I earn, I’m often able to redeem them for first class travel.  To me, the whole frequent flyer thing is a game and a challenge.  I like figuring out how to collect more miles to get even better status to get even more perks.

If you are like me, you need to follow the group of guys at  I wish I could recall how I stumbled upon this site, but I’m happy I did.  I also listen to their podcast where the personalities of the key participants (Matthew, Mike, Ben, Hunter, Josh, Fozz, and Gary) all come out.

So, what can you learn from

  1. Ins and outs of the various frequent flyer programs, including how to redeem, how to get bonus miles, what status levels get you, and what to do with your miles in the case of an airline merger.
  2. How to make sure you get an upgrade, which is a whole science in itself.
  3. Why volunteering to take a later flight when yours is oversold can be a good thing and how many miles to request.
  4. All about “mileage runs” and how to build them.  A “mileage run” is a trip someone takes only to earn miles.  There is a rule of thumb that if your miles “cost” less than 3 cents (cost of fare divided by # of miles), then it’s a good deal.  It may be worth spending a day, for example, on a quick round trip between St. Louis and Los Angeles.
  5. Descriptions of the various cabins on different airlines, airport clubs, hotels, etc.
  6. Stories about the traveling experience.

As an example of something I’ve learned recently —  Delta now has a special only out of St. Louis and a few other cities that lets you get your status faster and provides bonus miles.  To get that, however, you have to sign up for the program.  I did, thanks to a tweet from Gary at  Because I’m based in St. Louis, and we have to connect to get anywhere, I’ll be tempted to make the next trip on Delta to maximize the miles as long as it doesn’t take me too far out of my way.

Another thing I learned from these guys are the concepts of “status matching” and “status challenges.”  Status matching occurs when one airline matches the status you’ve earned at another, usually as an incentive to get you to fly them.  When I got to Continental Platinum last year, I was able to get Delta Platinum in just 24 hours with a simple email – and I hadn’t flown Delta in years.  Status challenges allow you to get to status levels faster by flying a large amount of miles in a short time (and paying a small fee).  Challenges are good if you’re flying patterns move you to a different airline for an extended period, such as when you start servicing a new client or are on a new project in other cities.

For those of you that don’t think about all this stuff, but fly a lot, it may be worth visiting and possibly subscribing to the boys at


In Praise of Grammar Girl

For this year’s World Cup, ESPN has hired an all-British play-by-play crew for television.  In fact, as I think about their announcers overall, most are non-Americans, which makes sense to me if you want that so-called “expert commentary” and want announcers that know about the players, most of which play in Europe.

As I watch the matches and listen to the commentary by the British play-by-play announcers, I am repeatedly struck by what seems like wrong noun-verb agreement when the talk about the teams.  It is all in the plural.  Thus, they use phrases like:

  • England drive towards the goal.
  • Ghana look tired as the 1st half comes to a close.
  • Italy dive any time an opposing player comes near them. (So true!).

Sorry, but these sentences sound a bit off to me.  I have a desire to say “England drives” and “Ghana looks” and “Italy dives” (All the time!!).

It’s as if the Brits are assuming a collective name exists after the country, but it isn’t said.  If a Brit were announcing ice hockey, for example, we might hear “The Washington Capitals are the best offensive team in the league” as often as we’d hear “Washington are the best offensive team in the league.”  The latter still sounds wrong to me.

To find out the right answer, I visited one of my favorite sites:  Grammar Girl.  Grammar Girl is run by Mignon Fogarty, who has also written an entire book on grammar called The Grammar Devotional.  I became enamored with Grammar Girl through her weekly podcast, on which she resolves age-old mysteries such as:

I’m still not sure when to use “lay” and when to use “lie,” but I do remember Grammar Girl pointing out that Bob Dylan’s song “Lay Lady Lay” should be “Lie Lady Lie” and Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally” should be “Lie Down Sally.”

Do you think Dylan and Clapton care?  No, probably not.

In case you are wondering — a) “alternatives” are different choice than your current choice, while “options” is used to describe all choices, including your current choice and b) yes, it is OK to split an infinitive in some contexts  (Shocking! I know.)

A good place to start with Grammar Girl is her Top 10 Grammar Myths.  I won’t give any away, but suffice it to say that a preposition is a word you can end a sentence with.

So what does Grammar Girl say about team names?  In her podcast and article from September 2, 2008, she writes:

Adding to the complexity of this issue is that Americans and Britons handle it differently.

Americans tend to treat collective nouns as single units, so it’s more common to use the singular verb unless you’re definitely talking about individuals. So in America you would be more likely to hear “The faculty is meeting today” than “The faculty are meeting today.”

In British usage, however, it’s the opposite; it’s more common to use the plural verb. In fact, some sentences that are perfectly correct in Britain would be considered incorrect in America. Take “Cambridge are winning the boat race.” Although I spent my elementary-school years in London, I have been fully Americanized, so this sentence doesn’t sound right to me. As an American, I would say, “Cambridge is winning.”

In short — the British announcers say it correctly for them.

And, if I want to say “Italy dives any time an opposing player comes near them” (It’s so annoying!), then I’m free to do so and will still be grammatically correct.

In Praise of SBNation (With Much Love for Japers’ Rink)

There is no better place to start my weekly discussion of things in the blogosphere than the place where I spend much of my time online.

I’m not doing SBNation ( justice when I describe it, as it does itself, as “Sports News and Fan Opinion Powered by 249 Blogs.”  The 249 sports blogs include one for every NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB team; one for almost all the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, Pac 10, Big East and SEC schools, one for some of the MLS and Premier League teams, and blogs covering fantasy, statistics, martial arts, boxing, golf and others.  Recently, they’ve added regional sites for 12 cities (with another eight going on-line by July 1) that pull together all the teams there and also sponsor local meet-ups where posters can see each other in the flesh.

I discovered SBNation through Japers’ Rink, the SBNation blog that focuses on the Washington Capitals, which is the team I live and die with.  Since early March this year, I have visited Japers Rink (as STLSpidey) every day that I’ve had internet access.

Japers’ Rink and the other 248 blogs use the same site template, which allows users to easily transition from team blog to team blog.  A core local group runs each blog and posts articles about the team nearly 365 days a year, inviting comment from the readers.  In addition to these articles, each blog allows “Fan Posts,” which are articles of depth and substance posted by readers like me, and “Fan Shots,” which are shorter topics for discussion that we fans suggest.  For example, my first Fan Post on Japers’ Rink was a discussion of the punishment imposed to Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks  for their similar checks from behind in different games.  A Fan Shot could be something as simple as posting a trade rumor and inviting discussion.

When a team has a game, blog participants watch the game while participating in a discussion on the site.   At first, it’s like “watching” in a large bar, but after a few games, it’s a bit like family.

Each blog has its own rules and etiquette that a reader agrees to upon joining.  What I really like is the respectful way fans are treated, especially when a fan crosses over to a rival team’s blog.  If a Red Sox fan from Over the Monster joins a discussion on Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees’ site, they are listened to and debated, unless they start their post with “Yankees Suck.”  Then they are booted out.   Name calling is generally not tolerated, although each blog sets its own rules about obscenities in the context of discussion.  At Japers’ Rink, I can tell you that we hold nothing back!

I haven’t visited every one of the 249 blogs on SBNation, but I doubt any other is like Japers’ Rink.  I just have to give some love to the Rink and my friends there.

We are bound by our passionate support for the Caps, and the participants’ depth of knowledge about the Caps is incredible.  But for me, Japers’ Rink is less about the Caps, than it is about community.  Entering the discussion boards at the Rink is, for many of the 30 or so regulars, like multiple “Norms” entering Cheers.  And this is not just a DC group either.  It is truly a Caps Diaspora.  From DC to Nashville and St. Louis in the Midwest to Seattle and Los Angeles on the West Coast and all the way to Tblisi Georgia, we enter from across the globe.  When I started participating in March, I was made to feel extremely welcome.  I remember well the first time that someone asked me a question about something I had written about two days earlier.  That was cool.

What really sets Japers’ Rink apart from other SBNation blogs, however, are the daily “Off-Topic” threads.  These are daily boards opened up for discussion of anything at all, as long as it doesn’t involve the Capitals.  Participants visit the OT threads to interact with their fellow Caps fans and do so every day of the year.  Today, for example, on a normal off-season day, the OT thread had nearly 600 comments, covering items such as good concerts to see, the World Cup, last night’s Top Chef DC, and a search for a Karaoke KJ (whatever that is).  For me, this makes the Rink what it is.  I just don’t know whether the hockey discussions make the OT discussions better or of the OT discussions make the hockey discussions better.

So — bottom line — visit SBNation and find the blog that supports the team you live and die with.  You’ll find the depth of the information outstanding and you’ll “meet” others who share the same passion you do and want to “talk” about it as much as you do.