SSSS – not on our boarding pass please!

Have you ever wondered about those cryptic letters on your airline boarding passes? Now we are sure you are more than familiar with the flight class indicated on the pass. And you’d also be aware of the airport codes in case you fly to the wrong city with the same name (remember this post?).

Now if this article is accurate, then having the letters ‘SSSS’ printed on your boarding pass would be a big no no. Now just in case you did not read the article, let us summarize it for you. This code essentially identifies you for additional security checks before you board the aircraft. It means you will be Sadly Suffering Security Screening… though that’s not what it’s suppose to mean… heheh. Hey, this was the best we could come up with. Applause please.

Of course this was making reference the folks traveling to and from the US. But before you snicker at the thought that this does not affect you because you are not stateside, think again. You never know if this will be implemented in a different form elsewhere. Wonder why the security check folks ask for your boarding passes all the time even after you’ve been id checked? Perhaps in other airports there are similar codes which have been surreptiously incorporated onto your boarding pass without you ever noticing? Have we gotten you paranoid now?

Look out for strange and indecipherable codes on your boarding pass the next time. What did you find peculiar?

Oh how times have changed!

One of the challenge of trying to travel around the world is that you never really do. With 510 million km², that’s surely a lot of ground to cover. Granted much of it you cannot really travel to, or rather not want to, or better yet not practical to. You get the picture no?

Ok surely by this point you would be a little frazzled by the first paragraph.

Yep, this style of writing is called “frazzlegraphing”. The intent is to either: get you to roll your eyes, OR make you curious. LOL. If you came to this point, guess you are the second lot. Thanks.

So what’s up? Comparing photos of the places we took from the same spot years apart. And we are not talking about how much we have changed, because we surely did. Plus we don’t mean a gap of just a few years… here we cite the following exhibits.

Changed? Wow…

What do’ya think? On the right is the photo first taken in May of 2000 when we visited Japan for the first time. Yes that’s the streets of Ginza and it was already a pedestrian-only street during the weekends 17 years ago (and well before that). Ok not exactly at the same spot but the point was to convey : Tokyo’s landscape is ever changing even as we speak!

NO change? Hmmm…

Yeah. And this is a decades’ gap. But there we were at 461 Fifth Avenue just opposite the New York City public library. Almost a month’s difference and 20 years to the day, Suan was checking out the shops along the busy shopping belt at that time. But she’s gone a long way, having since ‘graduated’ to forensics examination of premium outlet malls…

Where in the world have you been more than once? Your hometown does not count.  Ok it does. Does this touch of nostalgia bring back any memories for you?

A really old guide

We are probably all familiar with travel guide books such as Lonely Planet, Fodors etc. Did you know that back in the 1800s there was already such guides? In 1861, the venerable German publishing house Baedeker begun publishing what would be a line of guide books in German and English.Thus it was so surprising that its 1897 guide of Paris is still as relevant today as it was published almost 120 years ago!

Well almost, as there has certainly been SOME changes to the “most romantic city” in the world. Isn’t that what draws people to the city? That you can still see, smell, hear and feel the charms of the streets as you sit in a cafe just watching people. We recall that it seemed like that each time we walked past a cafe in Paris. Boring people.

Old, yes. Usable, yes mostly and the “important” sections to us anyway.

Old GuidesYou might know that collecting vintage books and maps is one of the likes of Mel. His first vintage book was a primer on the history of the Habsburg and the Bourbons, dynastic masters of Europe for centuries.

And travel guides? We have plenty, though not of the antique pedigree. Perhaps some of those in our humble collection goes back to the late 1990s. Call that vintage…would really like to get our hands on a really old print like the ones pictured.

Cherish the travel time

Sometimes I think we practice hypocrisy. I mean ‘we’ as in Mel and Suan.

On the one hand we put preach conservation and reducing carbon footprint. On the other we work so hard to expand our handprint. Our header image actually says that! Thus this post was born and inspire by a short read of this article.

We are not religionists and if there is a higher power we can pray to, it’s the money god…lol.

However we do agree that when you are walking in nature you do get the sense of awe of how virtually all the earth’s bounty has been hijacked by humans. I mean, we are like everywhere! In an earlier post about how crowded it really is (read it here), we shared how much “volume” of travel has grown and seemingly continue to grow. It’s almost to the point that local communities begin to lash out and ‘wish you weren’t here’.

“Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague” – remember where this line was played out? Does Agent Smith ring a bell?

As responsible travellers, we all have the mandate to ensure that we do not leave any environment that we visited in a less pristine condition than before. This includes hotel rooms we stayed in. Mel’s mom once worked for a number of years as a chambermaid and later as the housekeeper (sort of supervisory role) in some of the swankiest hotels in Singapore. Wow has she stories to tell of really messy guests! It can be gut wrenching to see how rooms get “torn up” by guests just because it isn’t their home…

And this extends the natural environment too. As Vijay says in his article, let us cherish the privilege we have to place our handprints all over earth.

Rise of the AI travel planners

The rise of AI powered travel planning is beginning to accelerate as this article in the NY Times suggest. Soon, searching and creating your travel journeys will be a shopping experience, one where you will be interacting with intelligent “beings” that are not human.Languages.jpg

I am sure you have had experiences in chatting with web bots for customer service inquiries. How frustrating it must be that you cannot be fully understood.

As we highlighted in the piece on translators, semantics and slang is not quite the domain of “intelligent” systems yet. And because people create new acronyms, slangs or evolve the meaning of expressions, it is not easy to keep up. Even for a real person.

We probably all know the difference in meaning of tags such as “fag”, “shag” etc (if you are old enough) just to name a few. Depending on where you use these, the meanings and messages conveyed are significantly differernt. We just don’t see AI adapting to that so soon.

Perhaps we are getting it wrong.

It could be that we (ie real people) are being “shaped” and “herded” into re-orienting our natural language to suit AI. This influence on language should not be under estimated. There has been a call to preserve languges and dialects worldwide as they are disappearing fast (that would be another story) . It would not surprise us that the growing use of AI-based applications will influence the development of a “standardized” set of natural languages.

So it goes beyond just travel.

If history is any guide, it has been the increased cross border interactions of people that led to the need for “common” lingua franca(s). That in itself had seen the demise of numerous local languages. And with globalization of businesses large or small, it has accelerated. But we stand at a crossroad, where the technolgy can move the pendulum either way.

Which way do you prefer?

“Amazing” times while waiting

Have you ever thought about how to pass your time while in a limbo within your travel journeys? Some people read, play games on their phones, window shop. But this article has come up with a refreshing set of links where you can find puzzles that befuddle your mind while you wait for the train, plane, bus or ship.

I have to say though, some of the “top” games that the post came up with could be impractical in quite many cases. Cow counting…they don’t have free roaming cows as much as they used to! The license plate counting seems fun. Be care the driver does not join in!Mazes.jpg

Well, we really like puzzles like suduko or the patterns that take you some time to work out. It really helps kill time, while not letting yourself doze off.

On our train journey between Moscow and St Petersburg, we did not have our puzzles with us. Fortunately Mel was busy writing the travelogue. But Suan was bored! With the folks all around us falling off in a slumber, there was nobody to talk to.

Can you imagine being interrupted repeatedly as you tried to write? Anyhow, we settled into reviewing photos together instead for the next four hours. And it was also a joyful thing to do. But if we did not have this option…

Next time you have a long layover or ride, consider puzzles. It will make your traveling companion happy.