No more Saturday mail?

Wow, as I woke up I saw this on my yahoo feed:

It looks like the post office has finally decided to stop delivery mail on Saturday to cut back on costs.  This has been discussed for a while as increasing fuel/labor costs have made sending cheap mail (less than $0.50 for 1oz) a losing venture.  

While I can understand that people will be outraged that this public service is no longer available every day of the week, I can’t really blame the post office.  They’ve been bleeding money year after year and that comes straight out of tax payer dollars.  I understand that there is a benefit to having public programs that are available to all, but at some point we may have to reduce those programs, but never abolish them entirely.  

I think this is a good move for the post office and if Saturday mail is very important to people then people will have to speak-up, but as it stands I don’t think there’s a good financial reason for us to have saturday mail.  Thoughts?

Happy Distractions!

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A New Year, New Goals

Hello All,

Well it’s certainly been a long time since my last post, mostly out of laziness, however with every new year comes new goals.  I think this year it will be pretty straightforward.  I would really like to:

1.  Start blogging a bit more
2.  Run 1,000 miles
3.  Maintain EXP status on American Airlines
4.  Maintain Diamond at Hyatt
5.  Run one race a month!

Last year was a tough end of the year towards goals because I got sick prior to the Berlin Marathon.  I did finish the race, more details later, but as a result my running had decreased over the last few months.  I entered December at about 900 miles and was oh so close to the end of the year goal of 1,000 miles.  Well, long story short, I put a tough month together and will let this picture sum it up:



It was a great year, over 100,000 miles on American Airlines and 11 races for the year!

Happy New Year and Happy Distraction

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Pre-Race sickness

Oh boy less than a week to go, in fact only 3 days left until my first marathon.  It’s been a kind of stressful few weeks with the job search, figuring out how to do my science and not running and I guess all of that has taken a toll on my body.  After my exciting day trip to San Diego (I’ll write about this later), I got back and had a pretty busy Monday.  By that afternoon I was feeling a old headache.  i figured that it was a stress headache from everything going on and not running (which was easy due to the business) or even the cutting back on carbonated beverages which I’ve found has helped me race better.

Well I woke up Tuesday feeling mildly uncomfortable in the head but no other symptoms so I thought I’d just take the day and rest.  I had plenty of fluids and just ended up resting even with 12 hours of sleep!  Well on Wednesday I bought a thermometer for kicks and saw this:


Anyway, if you can’t read it it says 100.8. Yeah… Not good, my body is not pleased. The next few days involve a lot of travel so hopefully I’ll get plenty of rest and fluids and will hopefully be better before Sunday! Also shout out to the NFL refs for potentially agreeing and coming back for tonight’s game!

Happy distractions!

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Proudly display your medals with sporthooks

Hi all,

It’s been a busy week so sorry for not posting, but on an exciting front, less than a week until the Berlin Marathon!  Anyway as you all know one of the most exciting parts of completing a race for me is getting the medal!   Fortunately I’ve had a number of races this year in San Diego, Chicago, Portland, Pasadena, and Seattle so I have medals from all of those races as well as the heavy medals.  Well a company sprung up that makes some beautiful metal medal displays.  They’re called Sporthooks and I think that they’re a pretty small company, but one of the owner’s Marcey is really pleasant and easy to work with.

Heavy Medal Holder

I actually ordered the R ‘n’ R winged holder and had a little customization to it.  I had them add 2012 in the middle to symbolize all of the races that I will have run.  Fortunately with a quick e-mail to Marcey I was able to get a drawing within a day.  In fact within 2 days the rack was cut and put in the mail.  I finally hung the rack up this week and put the early medals on it and I think that it looks gorgeous.  I can’t wait until I get the last medals of the year.  Overall the rack is lovely and working with Marcey was a breeze!

Customized Heavy Medal Rack!

Happy Distractions!

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Dodgers-Cardinals – Great Tickets via SeatGeek

Hi All,

So sometimes I like going to sporting events and because the Dodgers have been so great lately I figured it’d awesome to see them, especially after their epic trade!  Well I use a ticket searching service called SeatGeek.  Simply enter an event that you’d like to go to, in my case I typed dodgers and got a search result.  I then clicked on the date that I wanted to go and it searched numerous sites including ebay, vividtickets, stubhub, etc… and it puts prices that include shipping!

Sample Dodger Ticket Map

It even shows you where the “good value” tickets are by putting them in green.  I really like this and am not sure how their algorithm works, but it does put nicer seats (based on views/rows) as better value and then compares it to the actual cost of the tickets.  *Note you can’t actually purchase the tickets here and it will take you to the appropriate website*

I got great seats on the field in section 26, for an awesome price!  It was a great game, a pitcher’s duel between Lance Lynn and Josh Beckett right behind first base!

View of the Stadium with Sunset

St. Louis Cardinals from my seats!

Field view from our seats!

We could even see balls and strikes!

Foul Ball Territory!

So close to the action!

As you can see the seats were pretty good.  It was a very lovely game.  We even took advantage of getting a few beers.  Note: get the small ones, they’re a better bang for your buck! ($6.25/16 oz versus 10.25/24 oz. [0.39 cents per ounce versus 0.42]) You may have to get up a few more times, but the beer is cold that way!  Also we were in foul ball territory so a guy caught a ball a few feet from us!

Happy Distractions!

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Beginner’s Guide to Elite Status, Example: American Airlines

Hi All,

I recently discovered a love for travel and have been able to enjoy many trips such as one to China, France/Switzerland, and an upcoming trip to Germany all with reasonable comfort and ease due to my elite status with American Airlines.  Now, you may think, how can you afford to have elite status with an airline or I though elite status was only for frequent travelers and those who have deep pockets?  Well I certainly don’t have deep pockets, but I do have a propensity to find good deals and understand the value of loyalty programs.

Today I’ll take you through a small example to understand how you can achieve elite status.  In a follow-up post, I’ll explain the different elite benefits that you can get and you’ll see how staying loyal to one airline can easily make your travel easier.  Now, I’m using American Airlines as an example, but most domestic carriers, Delta, United for example are very similar.

Enjoying a glass of Champagne and appetizer!

 First, we need to understand the concept of miles.  Everyone talks about miles.  I have this many miles on this airline and this many miles on this airline, and guess what, they’re probably all going to expire soon.  Well that’s what most of my friends who don’t travel say!  There are two important types of miles:  Redeemable Miles (RDMs) and Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs).  For the purposes of getting elite status, only EQMs matter.  The RDMs are simply for you to use for those destination trips!  For each flight you take, you will get one EQM for every mile that you fly.  You will also get at least one RDM for each mile you fly, but you may get more for having Elite Status or buying an expensive ticket.

Secondly the concept of Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs), which is the airline’s way of incentivizing someone who spends a lot of money on flights, not your typical graduate student!  As you probably know, when you book an airline ticket, you book it for a certain fare class, First, Business, or Coach (which most of us book into).  However, within those fare classes there are fare buckets, which the airlines use to monitor how much revenue they are brining onto a flight.  For example when booking your ticket, you can simply click “Flight Details” and you’ll get something that pops up like this:

As you can see, the cheapest ticket will book into fare class “Q”, the second cheapest into “L” and the fully flexible ticket into “B”.  Now these are important to the airline because if you buy the more expensive tickets, they make more money!  So they incentivize you by giving you more EQPs.  For example, on our “Q” fare we’d only earn 872 EQPs (1745*0.5), on our “L” fare we’d earn 1745 EQPs (1745*1), and on our “B” fare we’d earn 2617 EQPs (1745*1.5).  Now most of us will not be qualifying on points, but I thought I’d put this here just for reference.



EQPs per mile


G, Q, N, O, S



H, K, M, L , W, V



B, Y, W



D, I, J, R



A, F, P


Thirdly, the concept of Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS), is a way for the airline to monitor those frequent flyers who travel a lot of short trips.  Basically for each flight you will get one segment.  So a flight for LAX-DFW-ORD will give you 2 EQSs while LAX-ORD will only give you one EQS.

As you can see there are 3 segments of customers that the airline targets and ow that we’ve got that under our belts, we need to see how many EQMs, EQPs or EQSs  we need to get annually in order to maintain our elite status.  For American Airlines there are 3 Elite Statuses, Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum.

Elite Status

EQMs or EQPs








Executive Platinum



As you can see it doesn’t matter if you’re a high value customer and earn via EQPs or a graduate student on cheap fares earning EQMs, status is status.  Now is there an optimal time to earn your status, the answer is yes-ish.  Each year you have to earn your status by flying the requisite number of EQMs, EQPs or EQSs.  The calendar runs from January 1 – December 31, the calendar year.  This will qualify you for the next year.  So your earned status in 2012 keeps you going for 2013 (and a little bit of 2014 see membership calendar below)  On December 31st if you only have 24,000 EQMs, unfortunately you won’t make gold.

January –> December

Once you cross one of the elite thresholds, you will instantly have that status and that status will last until the end of the membership year.  The membership year runs from March until February.  So, what’s the point?  Well if you were to qualify this year for a status you will  have that status throughout the next membership year.  So for example if you qualifying for Gold on November 2012, you will remain gold until February 2014!  Also if you qualify for Gold in the early part of the year, say by January 2013, you’ll remain gold until February 2015!

March –> February

Well I hope that helps everyone out!  I’ll explain what benefits you get from each status later.

Happy Distractions!

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Stuck in the middle seat? Use Expertflyer to help you get out!

Now for those of you that don’t know, I really enjoy traveling.  Fortunately my career currently allows me to book my travel far in advance and I have elite status with American Airlines, so I don’t really worry about sitting in a middle seat, but it is a common problem for my friends so I thought that I’d share this great resource.

Expertflyer is a pay for service that allows you to check award space/flight availability and even see seat maps for a low monthly price, with discounts if you purchase an annual package.  They have 2 paid options a $4.99/mo option (you get 200 searches) or a $9.99 option (unlimited searches monthly).  I’ll get more into these later, but the great part about it is that they also have a free seat alert, all you have to do is sign up for an account.

Enter all of your information…

Now all you need to do is go to and sign up for an account.  Then click seat maps.  Here, you’ll enter basic information about your flight, the origin, destination, airline, and flight number and date and voila you’ve got a seat map for your flight.  Now I’ve picked an example for a friend where this isn’t a single aisle or window seat available, with the exception of premium seats.  Now if you were to click any aisle seat or any window seat and set-up an alert, expertflyer will continue to check for availability and send you an e-mail when a seat is available.  At that point you can log in to your reservation and simply change the seat!

Happy Distractions and Seat Picking!*

*Note, I am in no way affiliated with Expertflyer, I think they have a great service and I’m happy to simply share this information with my friends.

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