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  • [Reuters: U.S.] White House budget official testifies in impeachment probe on Saturday: A White House budget official walked into a closed session of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Saturday, where he testified about the holdup of military aid to Ukraine.
  • [Hacker News] New Vulnerabilities All Come Preinstalled on Android Phones: Comments
  • [Reuters: Health News] Stents no better than drugs for many heart patients: U.S. study: Many patients with severe but stable heart disease who routinely undergo invasive procedures to clear and prop open clogged arteries would do as well by just taking medications and making lifestyle changes, U.S. researchers reported on Saturday.
  • [Reuters: Company News] Stents no better than drugs for many heart patients -U.S. study: Many patients with severe but stable heart disease who routinely undergo invasive procedures to clear and prop open clogged arteries would do as well by just taking medications and making lifestyle changes, U.S. researchers reported on Saturday.
    Related
    Apple Watch detects irregular heartbeats in U.S. study [Reuters: Health News]
    Apple Watch detects irregular heartbeats in U.S. study [Reuters: Technology News]
  • [Hacker News] You Promised Me Mars Colonies but I Got Facebook: Comments
  • [Reuters: World News] Venezuela's Guaido calls for new wave of protests against Maduro: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Saturday called on supporters to lead a new wave of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, who has held on to power despite an economic crisis and aggressive U.S. sanctions.
  • [Reuters: Sports News] Czech former world number four Berdych announces retirement: Former world number four and Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych has announced his retirement from tennis.
  • [Reuters: World News] Guatemala could send asylum seekers to remote regions: top official: Guatemala could send asylum seekers to some of the country's most remote regions, a top official said on Saturday, as the Central American country and the United States move closer to finalizing details of a controversial migration agreement.
    Related
    Venezuela expels El Salvador's diplomats in 'reciprocal' move [Reuters: World News]
    Venezuela and El Salvador expel each others' diplomats [Reuters: World News]
  • [Reuters: World News] Iran's fuel protests turn political: state media: Riot police and security forces clashed with demonstrators in Tehran and dozens of cities across Iran on Saturday, Iranian news agencies and social media said, as protests against a rise in gasoline prices turned political.
  • [Hacker News] A Week with Chauffeurs Showed the Major Flaw in Our Self-Driving Car Future: Comments
  • [Hacker News] Using multi-arch Docker images to support apps on any architecture: Comments
  • [Reuters: World News] Polls close in Sri Lanka presidential poll marred by violence: Polls have closed in Sri Lanka where elections were held on Saturday for a new president of the tourism-dependent island nation still struggling to recover from the Easter Sunday militant attacks which killed more than 250 people.
    Related
    After Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, fears dominate Sri Lanka’s election [World: World News, International News, Foreign Reporting - The Washington Post]
    Sri Lankans vote for a new president to heal divisions after Easter attack [Reuters: World News]
    Sri Lankans vote in big numbers for a new president to heal divisions after attacks [Reuters: World News]
  • [War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post] Young Venetians volunteer after flood of their lifetimes: As soon as waters receded from this week?s devastating flood, about 50 young Venetians wearing rubber boots and gripped by a sense of determination showed up at the city?s Music Conservatory to help save precious manuscripts
  • [Hacker News] Infectious Executable Stacks: Comments
  • [Hacker News] Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Privacy: Comments
  • [War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post] Lebanese police to boost security near banks amid unrest: Lebanese security forces will boost measures near the country?s banks that have been closed for more than a week over fears by employees for their safety amid nationwide unrest
  • [Reuters: World News] U.N. warns Bolivia crisis could 'spin out of control' as death toll mounts: The United Nations warned on Saturday violence in Bolivia could "spin out of control" following a night of skirmishes between security forces and coca farmers loyal to ousted President Evo Morales that left at least eight dead.
  • [Hacker News] Tapestry: Has the mythical ?2-hour civ-building board game? arrived?: Comments
  • [Reuters: Politics] White House budget official testifies in impeachment probe: A White House budget official walked into a closed session of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Saturday, where he testified about the holdup of military aid to Ukraine.
  • [War Zones: War News, Coverage, Analysis & More - The Washington Post] Myanmar rejects court probe into crimes against Rohingyas: Myanmar?s government has declared it rejects the International Criminal Court?s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the country?s Rohingya Muslim minority
  • Show more…

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  • Low visibility: How aircraft operate in foggy conditions (13147 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 15:00:00 -0500Low visibility: How aircraft operate in foggy conditionsThe Points Guy

    As winter closes in, the nights are getting colder and there’s more moisture in the air. Combine the two and you’ve got the perfect recipe for fog. While it’s great for the photographers out there, we all know that fog combined with air travel normally results in delays and disruption.

    Fogbound airports are forced to reduce the number of flights taking off and landing every hour. This results in aircraft backed up at the gates and other aircraft going round holding patterns in the air, waiting for their turn to land.

    So why does fog cause delays, and how do pilots operate differently to keep our passengers safe in foggy conditions? Here’s your guide.

    What causes fog?

    Fog and mist are, in effect, just clouds sitting on the ground. Mist is defined when the visibility is greater than 1 kilometer (.6 miles) and fog is when the visibility is less than 1 kilometer. There are several different types of fog, each caused by different weather conditions.

    Radiation fog

    Radiation fog is the type of fog you’ll most commonly see. Ever woken up in the morning to drive to work and there’s a layer of fog sitting on the road? This is most likely to be radiation fog.

    On nights where there is no cloud cover to keep the heat in, the land surface loses its heat to the atmosphere. As the land cools, moist air close to the surface also cools. When the temperature of this air reaches the dew point, it is unable to hold water as a gas. This water vapor condenses around particles in the air and forms fog.

    That said, if there is no wind, fog may not form at all. Instead, there will be a layer of dew or frost on the ground. For fog to form, a gentle mixing of the air is needed by a soft breeze. This allows more air to come into contact with the surface, cooling it more and creating a thicker fog.

    In addition to the wind and temperature, all airfield weather reports also give us the dew point. If the temperature is getting close to the dew point, we can tell that low cloud or fog is a possibility.

    As the sun rises, the surface starts to heat up. As the temperature moves away from the dew point, the air is able to hold more water vapor and the fog starts to evaporate.

    Related reading: How the weather affects your flight ? the atmosphere and winds

    Valley fog

    You may have noticed the effects of valley fog when driving into a dip of a road at night. Cold air settles in the troughs of a valley and as it condenses, fog forms. It’s commonly the result of a temperature inversion that passes over the top of the valley or dip, keeping the cold air in. The fog is confined by the hills around it, and if the weather conditions are calm, it can last for several days.

    Advection fog

    When warm, moist air moves over the top of a colder surface, the warm air cools. If this air mass cools to the dew point, fog will form. A great example of this is the fog that forms around the San Francisco Bay.

    The California Current brings cold water from Canadian waters down the Californian coast. As the warm moist air off the Pacific passes over this colder water, it condenses and forms fog. Unlike valley or radiation fog, advection fog moves laterally, being blown in over the land by the wind.

    Low Visibility Procedures

    When the visibility at an airport drops below a certain level, normally 600 meters (2,000 feet), the airfield switches to Low Visibility Procedures ? or LVPs. Under LVPs, the way in which ATC and aircraft operate changes significantly.

    One of the main changes during LVPs is the holding points around the runways. In good weather conditions, aircraft waiting to enter the runway hold at the Category 1 (CAT 1) holding points. However, when landing in fog, the integrity of the signal that the runway sends up to the aircraft (more on this later) is vital. As a result, aircraft must wait farther back from the runway, at the CAT 3 holding point.

    In addition to this, each aircraft needs to be given a longer ‘runway occupancy’ time. Once a departing aircraft has crossed the CAT 3 holding point, it is deemed to be on the runway until it is airborne. The same with landing aircraft ? they are not clear of the runway till passing the CAT 3 holding point.

    Some of these CAT 3 holds can be hundreds of meters from the normal CAT 1 holds, so the runway occupancy time is massively increased. This is a large part of what causes delays.

    Taxiing

    Taxiing the aircraft around the airfield in thick fog is actually more difficult than the actual takeoff or landing. Even at your home base, familiar taxiways suddenly become alien and you can quickly become disorientated. Paying attention to your surroundings is vital. Inadvertently taxiing onto a runway could prove catastrophic.

    In order to prevent getting lost, we conduct a departure briefing before we push back from the gate. This will include the planned taxi route to the runway. It is a great time to highlight any areas where we might take a wrong turn and end up somewhere we don’t want to be.

    In order to assist us as we move around the airfield, we have a couple of maps. One on our iPads and also on one of the flight deck screens. Using both of these together, the PM (Pilot Monitoring) is able to assist the PF (Pilot Flying) in which turn to take and when. If there is any confusion as to where we are going, we’ll bring the aircraft to a full stop and let ATC know. It’s much better to ask for help than to taxi onto an active runway.

    Related reading: Parking a 200-tonne airliner ? How pilots move a plane around on the ground

    Takeoff

    Once we’ve found our way to the CAT 3 holding point, it’s time to start thinking about the takeoff. Depending on the facilities available, each airport publishes the minimum visibility required to depart. That said, the visibility at the start of the runway could be quite different to that half way down, some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away.

    In order to provide pilots with the best possible information, sensors are positioned at the start, middle and end of the runway ? known as the “touchdown,” “midpoint” and “stop end.” These sensors measure the visibility in meters and are reported to the pilots. For example “RVRs are 130/350/450.” It’s these figures that determine the takeoff minima.

    That said, the minima published by the airfield is the absolute minimum allowed. Airlines themselves will have their own minima down to which they will allow their aircraft to takeoff. This is normally 125 meters (400 feet). Contrary to this rule, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which I fly, is different. Because of the Head Up Display (HUD), we are able to reduce the takeoff minima down to just 75 meters (246 feet).

    However, as I mentioned previously, the RVRs may be different at each stage of the runway. On takeoff, we require all three reported RVRs to be at least the minima required. So, on a 787 I would need RVRs of 75/75/75. If any of the three values was below 75 meters, I would not be allowed to takeoff.

    Once we as a crew are happy with the reported RVRs, it’s time to go. As we start to pick up speed, the PF (normally the Captain in LVP takeoffs) is staring straight down the runway, keeping the aircraft on the centerline with their feet. The PM is scanning the engine and aircraft indications like a hawk, ready to call out any problems should anything occur.

    Hurtling down a strip of concrete at 180 mph when you can only see 75 meters in front of you is a pretty disconcerting experience. You have to keep faith in ATC’s ability and the procedures that all aircraft follow to keep the runway ahead of you clear. It’s exactly why, when taxiing, that you don’t want to end up on a runway by mistake.

    Once airborne, the layer of fog may only be a couple of hundred feet thick. As you burst through into clear blue skies, it’s almost as if entering another world.

    Approach

    While there is always plenty of time to prepare for a takeoff in fog, the sudden formation of fog on a runway may catch out some poorly prepared crew. During the flight, a good crew will always be monitoring the weather at the destination. If the temperature continues to drop but the dew point remains the same, it’s an indication that fog could be on its way.

    If LVPs are in force, this will be notified to the crew via the airfield’s information broadcast. This can either be picked up over the radio, or via Datalink for aircraft equipped with this technology. In addition to the usual weather, it will also give the latest reported RVRs. However, these should always be treated with a pinch of salt, as RVRs can change minute by minute.

    In order for the pilots to guide the aircraft toward the runway, we must hook onto a signal that is projected up from the runway, the Instrument Landing System, or ILS. The ILS actually comprises of two signals.

    The first, the localizer, sits short of the runway threshold but in line with the middle. This shows us where we are in relation to the centerline of the runway. The second beam projects upward at a 3 degree angle, from a point roughly 1,000 feet into the runway, abeam the touchdown point.

    The aircraft detects these signals and displays them on the screens in the flight deck. We then instruct the Autopilot to latch onto these signals and follow them to the runway.

    Approach Minima

    Like on take off, each runway, and specifically the approach to the runway has minimum weather criteria governing when we can and cannot make an approach. ILS approaches are used in foggy conditions as they have the most accurate signal.

    The minima dictates the minimum RVR needed to commence an approach to land, the start of the approach normally being 1,000 feet above the ground. Once again, the three different RVRs will be reported to the pilots. This is where it gets a little complicated.

    For an ILS approach to a runway, there are various different minima, depending on the equipment the aircraft has on board. For now, I’ll just discuss the most useful type of approach, “CAT 3B with no decision height.”

    On these kind of approaches, we can land with a visibility of 75 meters. Also, there is no requirement to see anything out of the windscreen before allowing the aircraft to touch down, such is the accuracy of the systems. There are even redundancies built into the systems so that in the case of certain failures, the aircraft can still continue to touchdown safely.

    Landing

    The landing itself is what’s called an auto-land. The Autopilot remains engaged all the way to touchdown and while the aircraft is decelerating on the runway. By leaving the Autopilot to do the physical flying, both pilots are able to give all our attention to making sure the aircraft is doing exactly what we want it to be doing. If the slightest thing starts to go wrong, we will notice immediately and take the appropriate action. As the aircraft passes over the threshold of the runway, the Autopilot raises the nose slightly to slow down the rate of descent. Quite often, auto-lands are fairly agricultural. The Autopilot is great at putting the aircraft in the right spot, it just sometimes lacks some grace. With the wheels firmly on the ground, we can apply the reverse thrust and allow the braking system to slow the aircraft down. All this time, the Autopilot is still keeping the nose tracking down the centerline of the runway. When we have reached taxiing speed and have identified a runway exit, the Autopilot is disengaged and the toughest part of the arrival begins ? the taxi to the gate.

    Bottom line

    Flying in foggy conditions provides challenges to pilots that are only experienced a few times a year. That said, it isn’t always easy to predict when the conditions will fog out, so we have to be prepared at all times. Taxiing to and from the gate is potentially the most dangerous stage of the flight, with the reduced visibility making it difficult to discern your surroundings. That said, we train regularly in the simulator for operations in foggy conditions so when it happens for real, we’re well practiced in what to do. Featured photo by Charlie Page/The Points Guy.

  • Frontier adds 22 new routes ahead of holiday travel (2258 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 13:30:00 -0500Frontier adds 22 new routes ahead of holiday travelThe Points Guy

    For more TPG news and deals delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list/

    Frontier has added 22 new routes to its service ahead of the busy holiday travel season, including its first flight from Newark (EWR).

    Frontier expanded to Newark (EWR) after Southwest announced that it would be leaving in August. Beyond the expansion, Frontier has also significantly increased its availability from Miami, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Here’s the full list of all the new routes:

    • Newark (EWR) to Las Vegas (LAS), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO) and San Juan (SJU)
    • Cincinnati (CVG) to New Orleans (MSY)
    • Orlando (MCO) to Green Bay (CRB) and Kansas City (MCI)
    • Raleigh (RDU) to Atlanta (ATL)
    • Sarasota (SRQ) to Trenton (TTN)
    • Tampa (TPA) to San Juan (SJU)
    • Las Vegas (LAS) to Portland (PDX), Reno-Tahoe (RNO), Seattle (SEA) and Santa Ana (SNA)
    • Miami (MIA) to Boston (BOS), Detroit (DTW), Hartford (BDL), Newark (EWR) and San Juan (SJU)
    • Phoenix (PHX) to Detroit (DTW), Fargo (FAR), San Diego (SAN) and Salt Lake City (SLC)

    In a press release, David Shurz, senior vice president of commercial for Frontier Airlines said, ?We?re especially excited to begin service in Newark, growing our presence in the New York City area and creating new travel opportunities for our customers. In addition, we continue to expand our presence in exciting destinations like Las Vegas, Miami Phoenix, and San Juan.?

    These new routes will allow for more travelers to discover new destinations at a low cost. While Frontier may not be the right airline for everyone, it does offer great deals for minimalistic travelers and even families with its “Kids Fly Free” program. However, if you’re new to flying the low-cost carrier, be sure to read our guide on everything you should know before flying Frontier.

    To celebrate the new routes, Frontier is offering flights from $29 one-way. To get in on the deal, travelers must book by Nov. 17 at 11:59 EST. However, you may be able to snag a better deal as Frontier is currently running another special with flights from $19 one-way. This deal must also be booked by Nov. 17 at 11:59 EST.

    Featured photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

  • FedEx Guy Throws $1,500 Canon Lens Instead of Walking 10 Feet (1683 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:35:00 -0500FedEx Guy Throws $1,500 Canon Lens Instead of Walking 10 FeetPetaPixel

    A FedEx delivery guy was caught on camera this week throwing a package containing a $1,500 Canon camera lens to a front door instead of walking a few extra steps to put it down gently. The whole thing can be seen in the 3-minute video above.

    Florida-based photographer Greg Riegler shared the video online after seeing what his Nest video doorbell had captured on Thursday.

    The video shows a non-uniformed man stepping out of an unmarked FedEx-style truck, strolling across the lawn, and then tossing the large cardboard box toward the door before walking back. He then returns to the front door with another man who is wearing a FedEx shirt and who identifies the dropoff as a FedEx delivery.

    When no one comes to the door to sign for the package, the duo leaves a slip, picks up the box, and departs.

    “I?ve been in contact with FedEx and the local distribution center,” Riegler writes on Reddit. “It?s a contractor, and the guy tossing the box seems to be training, which is crazy he already doesn?t care about his job.

    “I know packages are supposed to be packed in a way they can handle drops and whatnot, but they shouldn?t be intentionally mishandled. Thankfully no damage to the screen door […]”

    Thankfully, the lens was delivered successfully the following day, and it appears to be undamaged.

    “A legit FedEx guy came last night to deliver it,” Riegler says. “Opened the box and inspected the lens in front of the camera after receiving, everything appears fine!

    “I assumed it should be packed well enough to handle stuff like this, but it shouldn?t be intentionally mishandled like that.”

  • Targeted: Add up to three Amex Platinum authorized users for $175, earn 15k points (1404 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:30:00 -0500Targeted: Add up to three Amex Platinum authorized users for $175, earn 15k pointsThe Points Guy

    A targeted offer is hitting inboxes this morning offering holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express up to 15,000 Membership Rewards points for adding up to three authorized users. The fee to add an authorized user, whether you’re adding one, two or three, is $175 per year. You’ll earn 5,000 Membership Rewards points for each authorized user who spends $500 on their new card in the first three months.

     

    15,000 Membership Rewards points are worth $300, according to the latest TPG point valuations. That means the points you earn give you a net positive of $125 for adding three authorized users. In addition, authorized users gain benefits like Priority Pass membership, Centurion Lounge access, Global Entry registration credits and Delta Sky Club access when flying Delta on the same day.

    Authorized users for American Express cards must be at least 13 years old. You have to provide a birthday and social security number for the authorized user within 60 days of adding them to the account or the card will be closed.

    This is a great deal for those who are targeted. If you have family members or colleagues who routinely travel with you, this is the best way to get them lounge access and other travel benefits that come with the card. Make sure you know how to maximize the Membership Rewards you earn.

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips!

  • The New MacBook Pro Gets a Lot Right, But We Need Just a Little Bit More (6839 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:08:00 -0500The New MacBook Pro Gets a Lot Right, But We Need Just a Little Bit MorePetaPixel

    I want to start this off by saying two things: one, this isn’t a review or hands-on impressions as I have not used the computer (PetaPixel’s hands-on coverage is forthcoming) and two, I am an Apple power user and have been since I was indoctrinated in high school.

    I love Apple, and even when they don’t produce a product I’m 100% happy with, odds are very high I’ll buy it anyway. The “why” to that is long and complicated and a story for another day, but suffice it to say I just love the ecosystem.

    But just because I love Apple doesn’t mean I think they are immune to criticism. For as much as they appear to get right about the new MacBook Pro, I think there are a couple of places that could use some innovation, or in one case de-innovation, to bring it back into the forefront as an uncontested excellent creator’s tool.

    We Need an SD Card Port

    I will freely admit I was an Apple apologist when the original MacBook Pro with Touch Bar came out and didn’t include a built-in SD card port. I made excuses about how it wasn’t a big deal, about how finding a dongle would be easy and remembering to bring it would be second nature. I was certain it wouldn’t matter.

    Boy was I wrong.

    I am still using that first-generation MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and the number of times I was really, really screwed by not having a built-in SD card port are nearly innumerable. Given the mobile nature of this computer, there are hundreds of times that I have just grabbed it and nothing else, jammed it into my backpack and run out the door to a job only to later realize I had zero flexibility to do anything until I got back home and found my damned dongle.

    One time I was in Sedona and had to ask everyone I ran into if they had a dongle I could borrow. One time I was working a job in the San Francisco bay area and needed to get copies of files from my second shooter, and instead had to take all his memory cards home with me and mail them back to him afterward. Another time I was in Hawaii camera testing and had to borrow a dongle off a friend because I had yet again neglected to bring mine. I could go on, and on, and on with these examples.

    Eventually, I bought enough of these stupid SD dongles to keep one in every room of my house and one in every backpack and roller bag I owned. That ended up being the only solution to this problem: everywhere I could possibly be with my computer, I had to have a dongle nearby. I’m only barely exaggerating when I say I put one in the pocket of every jacket I owned so it would be impossible for me to not have one on me.

    The point I’m making, and I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir at this point, is that an SD card reader in your laptop computer is not a luxury or a “nice to have” feature. It’s a must, and Apple needs to de-innovate its design and just give it back to us. There is plenty of room on the side of the computer, and if they’re concerned about aesthetics, they could design a way for the port to be covered and seamless. They’re really good at that kind of thing.

    The Touch Bar Needs to be Reworked

    There are a few people whose opinions I’ve read in the comments section here on PetaPixel and on other sites who defend the Touch Bar as helpful when using specific apps. Though no one I’ve ever spoken to in person has ever defended the Touch Bar, I am willing to admit it works for some.

    But I don’t think that working for some is good enough. I think ideally, you would create something that actually revolutionizes how we work and advances on it. Right now, typing on my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar in the Pages app, I have some options for formatting this document on my Touch Bar. I can tell you that I have never once used the Touch Bar to do any of these actions. If I want to bold, italicize or underline, I know the keyboard shortcuts for that. If I want to adjust formatting and alignment, I find it easier to use the sidebar than to keep looking up and down from my hands to the screen to see if the formatting did what I wanted. In this example, the Touch Bar doesn’t enhance the experience — it complicates it and acts redundantly.

    That point about having to look down at my hands is also, in my opinion, the biggest flaw with the Touch Bar. Growing up learning typing, it was drilled into my head to avoid looking at my hands when I typed or worked. I’m sure some of you can remember the keyboard covers that computer teachers would put over your keys so you couldn’t look at what letters you were typing. Not looking down at your hands is ingrained heavily into the computer experience for me now, so having to change that on just this one computer feels awkward and wrong.

    And yeah, I do wish I had my F keys back. There are some shortcuts in Photoshop I just can’t do on this computer.

    I don’t know what the answer is to the Touch Bar. Get rid of it, change it, enhance it, do something, but all I know is that in its current state, it’s not helping more than it’s sort of just doing nothing for a lot of users. Maybe the answer is dramatically expanding it like on the ZenBook Pro Duo from Asus. There are those who don’t like this implementation either, but it’s much harder to say this design doesn’t add to the experience, and they don’t even have to sacrifice that top keyboard row to get it.

    Apple is Coming Around

    I want to applaud Apple for adding the Escape key back to the newest MacBook Pro. That key is very important, and should always be a physical button. I was ecstatic that the raw power of the computer jumped as well, and seeing them innovate a better cooling system is also really great.

    Most importantly, Apple listened to user complaints about the keyboard which, as I type on the original right now, is a godsend. I have a friend who actually carries around a second wireless keyboard and lays it on top of the built-in one on his MacBook Pro with Touch Bar because he hates the built-in one so much. That is just embarrassing from a design standpoint, and I’m so happy Apple is righting that ship.

    We should be cheering that Apple is listening to feedback and making appropriate changes. I certainly am. It’s important to tell them they’re doing the right thing and encourage this kind of response for future products. I just really hope they can do more with these last two features that really need some attention when they work on their next iteration of this laptop line.

  • CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Novartis sickle-cell drug gets U.S. FDA approval (269 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 12:02:00 -0500CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-Novartis sickle-cell drug gets U.S. FDA approvalReuters: Company News

    Novartis AG on Friday won U.S. approval for its experimental sickle cell disease drug, Adakveo, making it the first of several proposed new therapies designed to offer lasting relief for patients with the debilitating blood disease to get U.S. regulatory clearance.

    Related
    Novartis gets U.S. nod for long-delayed Amgen copycat [Reuters: Company News]
    Novartis gets U.S. nod for long-delayed Amgen copycat [Reuters: Health News]
    Novartis sickle-cell drug gets U.S. FDA approval [Reuters: Health News]
  • How to Win at YouTube as a Photographer: Advice from the Pros (33547 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 11:48:00 -0500How to Win at YouTube as a Photographer: Advice from the ProsPetaPixel

    So you’ve just finished school and now you have a diploma to certify and declare that you’re a bona fide photographer/filmmaker. Or you could be an experienced professional who is just about to wrap your latest gig and now it’s time to reach out to your network in search of the next job.

    Maybe you have just spent the last six months shopping your dream project around without any luck or you’re just trying to fill up some photography workshops so you don’t have to get a soul-crushing day job? Now what?

    Start a YouTube Channel. Now. Yes, You!

    But YouTube is for vloggers and online narcissists. But YouTube is for amateurs who couldn’t make it work in the big leagues. But YouTube… we’ve heard it all before: YouTube isn’t serious filmmaking. This is both true and false.

    While there are certainly untold billions of videos that are no more than a waste of time, there are countless others that both educate and inspire a dedicated audience! The best part? It’s still growing which means it’s big enough for you to enjoy some success by contributing your content and carving out your niche.

    This is not a guide to becoming the type of viral phenom that gets you subscribers into the millions and prestigious brand deals, but it is full of inspiring advice from five working professionals whose own success on the platform shows why every photographer and filmmaker should start their own YouTube channel to showcase their work, keep their skills sharp, build an audience and market their business.

    Show ‘Em What You’ve Got!

    While some would say that YouTube is not cinema and therefore they see no reason to bother with it, sadly, they are missing the point. YouTube represents a huge opportunity you may have not considered to get your work in front of a huge audience.

    Not only is the way we consume content changing, but so is the industry. Think again if your plan is to take your film to a festival, be showered with awards and praise, then try to decide which major brand you want to make commercials for after becoming an industry darling. It’s not likely to happen.

    Even online opportunities have shifted greatly since you enrolled in art school, but it’s where a lot of interesting creators have emerged lately who started with less than you, yet now have the freedom to make whatever they want. Still think YouTube is beneath you?

    Making short Internet videos should be easy with the skills acquired in film school, in the field, or on set. But there’s a lot more to overcome than the simple mechanics of uploading a video and waiting for lightning to strike.

    And don’t forget, there’s a horde of aspiring creators who were there before you who busted their asses perfecting their YouTube content and marketing. Their stuff may not always be much to look at, but they’re masters of the enigmatic YouTube algorithm that sorts through endless videos and brings them viewers.

    You have an ace up your sleeve though. With your training and ability to bring image and story together, you’re uniquely positioned to stand out above much of the YouTube crowd in terms of superior production value. But first, show off what you’ve already been up to and generate some interest in the projects you worked so hard on.

    “If You Build It, They Will Come”

    A lot of creators say that YouTube is a ?long game.” With more videos being uploaded in a day than anyone could ever hope to watch in a lifetime, you’re going to need to start dropping quality stuff right away to get eyes on your content. Don’t expect overnight success, however. Remember the long game.

    Admittedly things were different for video creators even a few years ago. A Vimeo Staff Pick once all but guaranteed a kick start to your career, but now the vaunted ?pick” status won’t fill your inbox with clients looking to hire you right away, according to adventure documentary filmmaker Levi Allen.

    ?It’s pretty entitled to think that one project earns you a reputation, and I had hopes that it would launch me into more outdoor paid work,” Allen said of his experience after releasing his celebrated adventure film, Untethered.

    But it took two to three years more for Allen to develop that reputation since the initial success of his independent documentary. YouTube gave him that opportunity to raise his profile as a filmmaker, he acknowledged.

    ?It builds up a rep for my company, you gotta show the kind of work that you want to get hired for,” Allen explained.

    What kind of content will you produce for your channel? It’s simple. Make the kind of stuff that you want to be known for and explore that niche. If your interest is in astrophotography, show your work in that genre and talk about it in your videos. Demonstrate your expertise.

    If your documentary tackles social issues and you want to make more of those, let everyone know that’s what you do and show them how to get involved themselves. Become that person that the audience, as well as potential clients, will follow because your channel shows exactly how your values align with theirs. Allen wanted to do more outdoor work, so that’s precisely the market he focused on with his channel.

    But Everyone’s a Photographer Now

    Your work says only so much about you, but through a channel you get to express yourself in so many other ways and offer viewers the chance to connect with you which makes them more invested in your work. This audience connection, or engagement, is deeply important and is a critical part of your success, which we’ll discuss later on.

    Landscape photographers Gavin Hardcastle and Adam Gibbs both transformed their photography businesses with YouTube. They adapted their stills vision to 24 frames per second and created their own channels.

    Through YouTube they discovered effective ways to find their audience, connect with them and promote their work through an avenue vastly different than books and calendars, which are some of the mainstays of a landscape photographer’s income.

    ?I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future we get opportunities we never imagined, offered deals we would never believe,” Hardcastle explained.

    Hardcastle started off some six years ago posting quality, but infrequent, fare for a photography channel: cinematic landscape video footage, some gear tests, and helpful tutorials. Things changed a little over a year ago when he began to post more consistently and he found his stride by adding humor to the serious world of landscape photography. His channel started to take off even further after he began collaborating with fellow landscape photographer and comedic partner in crime, Adam Gibbs.

    ?It’s a steady climb and it’s been steady for about a year. Things are going good, but I’m certainly no Peter McKinnon where he got a million subscribers in a week or whatever it was,” Hardcastle joked.

    Again, it’s a long game, but sustainability is attainable with time and effort.

    YouTube brings new subscribers every day to not only enjoy their landscape photos but to also learn more about the photographers themselves and their process. Gibbs and Hardcastle’s workshops fill up immediately as a result, and some of the participants are even loyal subscribers to their channels.

    You’re Already Ahead of the Game

    If you have any successes in your career and a body of work to bring to your new YouTube channel, you’re establishing your credibility right away. When you continue to share more and bring subscribers along on your journey, not only are you entertaining them, but you’re adding value by giving them an inside look at a lifestyle they may be only dreaming of. If your channel helps them realize that dream through tips, tutorials, and insights, then you’ve got all the makings of a successful channel, according to Hardcastle.

    ?That’s the goal with every video: to inspire, entertain, and educate a little bit. If you can get those three things in one video, then I feel like you’ve done well. That’s the kinda s**t I’d want to watch,? he explained.

    Photographer Adam Gibbs has been in business for decades, before losing his steady gig after the magazine he worked for went bankrupt. He had to find a new way to get his work out there and videos seemed to be the answer. Gibbs’ story shows that it’s never too late to start a channel.

    ?I don’t worry about it, but there are YouTubers who started at the same time as me,” some of them with tens of thousands more subscribers than Gibbs currently, he noted. ?But I have to remember that the whole purpose of my YouTube channel was to get people to sign up for my workshops, which it has done. It’s done a great job?

    While there are multiple layers to becoming a YouTube success, the basis behind it all is quite simple, Allen explained.

    ?One aspect is it’s [YouTube] just a straight up delivery platform, so you make something that you’re proud of and want people to be able to see it, but if you want people to be there when it’s finally done, you should probably give them something to get them interested along the way,” he said.

    Don’t expect success on YouTube if all you plan to do is share your finished work with a ?fire and forget? mentality. Get involved, and offer those important features to your growing audience that help them feel that they are improving themselves in some way. The first will get you views, but the second part will get you more valuable engagement, which we’ll also discuss later on.

    Never Stop Learning

    For those of you without a lot of video production experience, let’s consider Gibbs’ situation. He was an expert in still photography but wasn’t sure where to start when it came to video. Gibbs began by taking a GoPro out with him on his photo shoots and he built up from there.

    His technical quality soon caught up to his artistic vision and his videos now feature the panoramic vistas and intimate details of natural settings that he immerses himself in to capture award-winning images. He added drone footage to deliver another dimension to his work and it fits seamlessly with his stills photography and introspective voice over.

    Some of us don’t own much gear at all and have learned a lot on rented equipment or whatever our employer provided. Gibbs said to just get started, don’t wait until you have the perfect gear. His audio was terrible in the beginning, he noted, but that didn’t stop him from getting his channel off the ground.

    ?There are a lot of would-be creators out there who have better kit to start, but even they feel limited by what they have. But if you’re motivated, you make do with what you have,? he explained.

    Viewers love to see the progression and improvement of creators, it is inspiring to them and instills in them the feeling that it’s something they might also be able to do. Don’t feel inadequate if you need to improve your skills in a particular area. But you only get better by doing. In fact, you can’t help but get better by doing.

    Successful creators are learning every day. There’s no end to the free educational content out there that can show you how to add to your own skillset.

    The Keys to Success Are Already in Front of You

    YouTubers have learned a lot about story and marketing and there is plenty to glean from these hard-working creators. Their simple approach to creating videos was born mostly of necessity, but a minimal approach can also benefit those creators with more skill and equipment. They became good for a reason, they kept at it with practice and a commitment to learning. They’re some of the most talented individuals I’ve ever met, even though most don’t possess formal backgrounds in production.

    You need to practice restraint. Be brutal with your editing and shooting. Sometimes a quick clip without lighting or awesome audio is all you need to tell the story. For those moments while hiking in to the next photography site, there were many, ?we should be filming this!” moments, Hardcastle explained, but their motivation to dig out cameras and tripods was non-existent.

    ?My Osmo Pocket is as convenient as a phone but has a gimbal,” he said, noting that its small size and ease of use has dramatically impacted his workflow. ?That helps you tell that story. It doesn’t look as cinematic, but if it’s a pain in the ass [to use] it stays in the bag.”

    Moral of the story, if you don’t feel like setting up a bunch of gear, you’re likely to miss a story element. Be prepared to sacrifice cinematics for story. Not everyone has the luxury of putting out eye candy with zero story and getting a million likes. Don’t expect to post overcranked footage of artfully shot coffee making on your channel unless you’re one of those viral successes that I mentioned earlier who can do whatever they want.

    Don’t worry about gear, though many of us may have access to incredible kit. Learn from these other YouTubers when it’s acceptable to shoot on an action cam, and when you should break out the lighting gear. If you’re making an Oscar production out of everything, you’re going to burn out.

    Keep It Simple

    There are ways to condense your videos to keep it tight and to the point. Using analytics will help show you when viewers click away from your videos, or you can incorporate some techniques that might be anathema in film production, but a standard on YouTube. Kitty Peters of Atola Visuals explains how her style has changed to suit the platform.

    ?YouTube edits are quick, jump cuts are tolerated, rule of thirds is not always taken into account when shooting people, and overall the video has to appeal to a shorter attention span for the YouTube audience,? she explained.

    Engage an Audience and Create a Community

    As I mentioned earlier, the surest way to YouTube obscurity is to create videos with a ?fire and forget? mindset. The platform is littered with all manner of aspiring creatives hoping to drop one hot video and become viral hits, then live out the rest of their lives maintaining a phony YouTube lifestyle doing millionaire things in boring vlogs and raking in cash from brand deals.

    Actual professionals don’t include becoming a viral success in their business plans. Rather, they understand that employing skill and effort is what lays the groundwork for success. YouTubers know and excel at this.

    Put simply, you can’t just publish a video and hope the algorithm gives it wings. You need to build an audience and work on engaging your viewers if you ever want to go anywhere on YouTube. If nobody knows your work exists, then what’s the point?

    Worship Me! — The Algorithm

    Getting views can be easy, but turning those viewers into subscribers and forming a community is key to gaining traction on the platform. It requires consistency, engagement, and patience to bring viewers in and convert them to subscribers. These things feed into the almighty algorithm, the arbiter of all YouTube success.

    YouTubers have found a way to draw the algorithm’s all-knowing eye to them. It’s not easy attracting the attention of the algorithm, and even when you do it can be frustrating and unsatisfying, but if you want to play the game, you need to accept that certain types of content do better than others, at least until the fickle algorithm demands different tribute.

    ?It really has the potential of being a fantastic platform for creatives but I think the algorithm way is messing up the quality. Now it seems like making many ‘talking into camera’ videos will get you more reach than a well-crafted masterpiece would. That f**king sucks,? Swedish documentary filmmaker Jonny von Wallström said.

    The problem with countless vlogs, featuring virtual unknowns talking to the camera, is that those creators haven’t developed enough interest in themselves yet to make anyone care about what they had for breakfast, or how they got in and out of their car to go buy a toilet brush yesterday.

    Vloggers became popular because they showed aspects of life that we simple folk don’t normally get to see, flying first class in what looks like a condo rather than a plane seat for example. I vlogged before YouTube existed and nobody cared. But when I made videos that were newsy or had story, I had tons of downloads and my RSS stats were off the charts. My, how things have changed.

    Vlogs become an option once you have some traction. If you want to try it and see if the algorithm takes notice, have at it, but please make them compelling. I don’t want to watch you talk about how you need to buy groceries broken up by clever transitions and ‘b-roll’ of something completely unrelated to the vlog. For now, work on developing your own style and finding your voice.

    Once you’ve developed your content and found some form of creative sustainability, be consistent. That doesn’t mean do the same thing over and over again, rather, post once a week and always hit that deadline. Subscribers want to see consistency. You don’t want to gain subscribers and then drop off their radars.

    But you don’t want to jam someone’s feed with your content either. As one YouTuber confided in me, there is a point where the number of videos on your channel has a psychological effect on potential subscribers and that made them unlist much of their content. If you have tons of frequent videos then people might not want to be overwhelmed with your stuff, so dial it back a little.

    Big life changes for Allen has derailed his consistency a little, and his channel hasn’t been performing as well as it has in the recent past, he said. Over the last few months, he worked hard to finish a van build under a tough deadline, moved out of his apartment and into his van with his wife and took off to Alaska, all while trying to document it for his audience in an algorithm friendly way that wouldn’t piss off his core fans.

    It was a lot of work and unfortunately a few deadlines were missed. The slight impact was immediate on his channel, but nothing Allen can’t recover from. He’s beyond 100,000 subscribers and his channel has enough of a dedicated audience to sustain it through many changes and disruptions.

    ?…now every time I hit publish I’ll lose 100 subscribers,? Allen said, and he explained that if you don’t post consistently, people forget who you are which leads them to unsubscribe. ?So even as I’m thinking about what I’m making, there’s that constant nagging feeling that you have to make something that performs well on the algorithm and it’s not just the algorithm, you want people to watch it and spread it. It’s exhausting.?

    “When You’re Finished Changing, You’re Finished” –Benjamin Franklin

    It can be hard to post consistently when external pressures arise, and it’s also hard to maintain your creative vision when the algorithm looms over every post. But there are creators who have been around a long time who have survived and thrived, so it is possible, Allen said.

    ?Some of these creators that have been around for over a decade, it’s really fun to see how they’ve had to respond in change, and sometimes their audiences have gotten really mad at them for changing, but it’s fun to see these creators come out the other side,? he said.

    It’s a battle each YouTuber must face as they gain popularity and sometimes the criticism can be harsh. On Allen’s Patreon page one supporter was upset with the recent focus on the van build, something that normally appeals to his regular fans.

    ?Some people get mad at me for not doing the stuff that I’ve already done, again. Some people just want me to do more slackline videos, and I’m happy to, but I also just want to keep messing around doing other things,? he said.

    Comments like that can be disheartening at times, but they play a role in fine-tuning your content, according to Hardcastle, who loves the instant feedback nature of YouTube.

    ?You never had a means of interacting directly with a TV audience. Now I’ll post a video and start reading the comments immediately and interacting with them. What other medium offers that instant feedback? You can’t be too precious if the audience hates things. Take their feedback and it makes you improve immediately, unlike something on TV that is done and gone, and you find out months later that they didn’t like it. I can adjust on the fly,? he explained.

    Engagement with an audience can also inspire new content, Hardcastle said. When you’re making frequent videos and sometimes struggling to come up with ideas, inspiration from a dedicated audience is most welcome.

    Haters Gonna Hate

    Some criticism won’t be as helpful or as nicely delivered, however. I’m talking about trolls who will hate your content no matter what you do. YouTube requires a thick skin, so does any form of creating and publishing. Don’t hide from your comments because of this – engagement with actual viewers is too important to let a few trolls ruin everything.

    When you’re facing down some pure vitriol and hate, 99 percent of the time that person’s profile sadly states, ?this channel has no content.” Their commentary means nothing. If it’s too unpalatable, then remove their comment. Otherwise, forget about them.

    With an audience comes responsibility to them on YouTube. If you want to keep them, they need to feel important to the success of your channel. Answer their comments, draw inspiration from their ideas, be motivated by their commitment to your channel, and as Hardcastle explains, laugh with them!

    ?I read every single comment that I get on all my videos. What I love is, these people are witty, these are funny people who totally get my humor and they give me ideas. And you can tell that they get it because of their comments. That gives me a lot of motivation to keep creating,? he said.

    All Right, Stop! Collaborate and Listen

    Your audience can be a deep well for the inspiration to create, but don’t forget about drawing from other YouTubers who, through the magic of collaboration, can really help you develop your channel. Make sure that you seek out other like-minded creators with similar values, but don’t hedge your successes on meeting that one insanely popular YouTuber with tremendous reach. That’s another gateway to procrastination, Allen said.

    ?When you’re starting out and you’re watching a lot of these other YouTube channels, it’s easy to fall into the trap and think, ‘if only I could be friends with one of them that would change my career’,” Allen said.

    Being unknown to YouTube celebrities shouldn’t stop you from creating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for the stars. Keep at it and you will make connections. You need to put in the work first and be honest with your intentions when you’re reaching out. Sometimes you get lucky and meet a YouTube superstar like Casey Neistat, as Allen did. Most times you don’t. Keep working, but don’t kill yourself trying to meet these stars.

    Though his interaction with Casey was a highlight of his YouTube career, Allen said he most appreciates his ?horizontal? connections.

    ?It’s really helpful to start horizontally with people as close as you can that are similar in head space,” he continued. ?There are four or five friendships that I can think of that we’ve all kind of leveled up together, instead of me thinking I have to do a collaboration with a big YouTuber to make my career,? he added.

    Collaboration is sometimes made complicated by the numbers attached, like subscriber counts, because that sometimes creates hierarchies. To new creators that are coming up, he said that they need to realize that growing on YouTube can take years, but it’s made easier with those horizontal relationships, the people that you’ve grown with from the beginning.

    Creating horizontal relationships has worked for everyone in this article. Have a look at their channels and you will see collaborations with many other creators, some you may recognize and even subscribe to. Since meeting, Gibbs and Hardcastle are more likely to be in each other’s videos than not and they’ve infiltrated at least a half-dozen more channels, drawing new creators into their hilarious antics and wild photography trips.

    ?I’m more creatively satisfied than ever before,? Hardcastle said about the direction his content has taken since he began seriously collaborating. ?[My channel] used to be just about landscape photography, but now with the added vlogs and storylines, it couldn’t be any better. I can’t imagine having more fun than now,? Hardcastle said.

    His partner in crime agreed that collaboration was key to doing well on YouTube.

    ?What I’ve found with YouTube is that you’re way better off to collaborate with as many people as possible… it helps me grow and it helps them grow as well. It’s pretty lonely doing these vlogs on your own, but collaborating, you come up with new ideas,? Gibbs said.

    Matti Haapoja started out small and grew by showcasing his visual skills and getting involved with other creators, like von Wallström, who argued that giving creators a place to connect is one of YouTube’s greatest strengths.

    ?One thing that I just love about YouTube is that it?s based on people. Individual passionate creators who have their own channels where they tell stories. That?s what YouTube does best in my opinion. Then it just works as a hub to connect those people to their audience or other fellow creators,? von Wallström explained.

    It’s true. Even if your connection is as simple as merely subscribing to like-minded creators or as deep as working on a collaboration, YouTube is a creative hub. And don’t worry about those creators that are working in the same space as you are, there is room for everyone on the growing platform.

    Allen estimates that there are around 60 filmmaker channels similar to his that could be considered ?competition” but over the course of our interview the term never came up. Instead of seeing others as competition, Allen sees everyone as a potential collaboration, or inspiration, or friend. The niche for filmmakers sharing their process through tutorials, their techniques, and their projects is ripe for growth.

    Get started and make some friends.

    YouTube is My Business, and Business is Good!

    OK, you get it. YouTube is a great way to get your work out there, get better at filmmaking and develop an audience. But you have a business to run, so how do you make all that convert into dollars?

    Forget about ad revenue and the once-reliable channel monetization. That doesn’t start to become significant until well beyond the minimum requirements for monetization of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours watched in a year.

    Some of the money lies in brand deals – you always wanted to make commercials anyway, right? There is also money to be made in ancillary projects like training and education. YouTube also features a ?join? button similar to Patreon, where subscribers can offer to pay a monthly fee for a channel membership to help subsidize your crazy videos of cats making coffee, at 120fps of course. You’ll need a minimum of 30,000 subscribers, among other requirements, however. Patreon might be an easier way to get people to back your creative efforts in the beginning.

    With YouTube, potential clients search you out just like they do on Google. You can learn a lot about a company through a Google search, but when a client finds you on YouTube, they get to know you and that can help more easily and reliably find someone who aligns with your values. This is key to business relationships. Customers want to feel satisfied in knowing that the money they give to a business is going to the right people, or that the creator is making projects for the right client.

    Support from viewers is most important for a YouTube creator. Brands and sponsors are savvy, they’re not into simple numbers anymore. Viewers can be bought, but authentic engagement is a lot harder to fake and is more valuable to both the creator and the sponsor. It opens up a new world of opportunity for the creator and that can really help pay the bills. A sponsor not only hires you for your content but also for your genuine reach.

    ?All the stuff that is happening now is stuff that I didn’t even predict, and it’s not so much the subscribers, it’s more viewership. I don’t have a huge amount of subscribers, but my engagement is amazing,? Gibbs said.

    He’s pushing 30,000 subscribers at the time of this writing, a decent accomplishment for a landscape photographer who says the competition is saturated with fellow, ?middle-aged English guys?. YouTube has filled his workshops and is helping him achieve goals. He has connected with brands that now sponsor him.

    His pal, Hardcastle is developing all manner of paid learning for the wishful photographer in collaboration with other photographers. Not only does this increase the value for the customer, but it also increases the reach for Hardcastle and his collaborators.

    And if filmmaking education is in your wheelhouse, there’s a huge market for that on YouTube as well. Creative North is von Wallström’s channel and it centers on the documentary film process, offering step-by-step filmmaking techniques.

    Allen also offers educational content on his channel and adds on-location workshops similar to Gibbs’ and Hardcastle’s photography trips. Allen’s new Adventure Film Academy was developed as a means to engage more deeply with his audience and offer them a unique experience learning Allen’s technique and philosophy. It’s not a responsibility he takes lightly.

    ?I realized that a lot of this stuff and the themes here are hard to impart through just another ten-minute video on YouTube, people want more than just another tutorial,” Allen explained.

    ?It feels like a lot of pressure,? he said about being chosen to help these people level up their skills. ?There’s definitely this impostor syndrome, who am I to be the person that’s trying to teach anything, but I just remind myself that I’ve finished things. For a lot of people, getting to the finishing things stage is a huge goal.”

    They are fed up with procrastination, making test videos, and just want to be around other people who actually complete things, and Allen is excited to be that person in their lives.

    ?I think people just need to be face to face with more people like that in their day to day life,” Allen added. ?It’s special that people will trust me to deliver something of value. I don’t really need more from YouTube, I just need to keep making things that I’m proud of and keep giving back because that cycle is really rewarding. I get such a kick out of that.”

    So When Are YOU Going to Start a Channel

    Show your stuff. Practice your skills and even learn some new ones. Find that audience, engage them, inspire them and give back to them. Create what you want to be hired to create and discover a world of new opportunities.

    But remember, it’s a long game and there are real people on the other end consuming your content. You’re responsible to them in some way and if you don’t shirk that duty they’ll be there with you to motivate and inspire you back. But the hardest part is just getting going. I’ll leave it to Allen to hammer this last point home.

    ?If someone is thinking that they want to start, then they just have to start. There’s no easy way to get that ball rolling, I think people would be surprised if they don’t think they can fit a video a week into their life. I found that it was entirely untrue,? he said.

    A few hundred videos later, Allen has over 100,000 subscribers and at least five streams of income to bankroll his dream of taking enough time off each year to make the stuff he loves. What’s stopping you?

    Editor’s note: This is a condensed version of an article that was originally published at Digital Filmmaker.

    About the author: Chris Koehn is a former newspaper journalist turned videographer. With independent documentary and corporate video production experience, Chris helped newsrooms adopt video content strategies as media convergence and DSLR film making transformed the online news landscape. His video work earned nominations and national news awards in Canada for elections coverage. Chris is now working in independent journalism and documentary while freelancing for Canadian news outlets. You can connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

  • How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results (2492 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 11:34:00 -0500How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your ResultsSlashdot

    Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd shared this report on "arguably the most powerful lines of computer code in the global economy," the Google algorithms that handle 3.8 million queries every single minute. But though Google claims its algorithms are objective and autonomous, the Wall Street Journal reports Google "has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged": More than 100 interviews and the Journal's own testing of Google's search results reveal: - Google made algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones, and in at least one case made changes on behalf of a major advertiser, eBay Inc., contrary to its public position that it never takes that type of action. The company also boosts some major websites, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. - Google engineers regularly make behind-the-scenes adjustments to other information the company is increasingly layering on top of its basic search results. These features include auto-complete suggestions, boxes called "knowledge panels" and "featured snippets," and news results, which aren't subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change. - Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results... Google employees and executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, have disagreed on how much to intervene on search results and to what extent. Employees can push for revisions in specific search results, including on topics such as vaccinations and autism. - To evaluate its search results, Google employs thousands of low-paid contractors whose purpose the company says is to assess the quality of the algorithms' rankings. Even so, contractors said Google gave feedback to these workers to convey what it considered to be the correct ranking of results, and they revised their assessments accordingly, according to contractors interviewed by the Journal. The contractors' collective evaluations are then used to adjust algorithms. The Journal's findings undercut one of Google's core defenses against global regulators worried about how it wields its immense power -- that the company doesn't exert editorial control over what it shows users.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The ultimate Outlander trip with points and miles (7124 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 11:30:00 -0500The ultimate Outlander trip with points and milesThe Points Guy

    Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Outlander. Anyone? I’m guessing the hand of every woman in America went up, because this wildly popular book series and TV show features one of the most compelling and enduring love stories around.

    Of course, there’s more to the series than that, including incredible history, phenomenal scenery and just enough action to make my dad sit on the couch and watch it too. If you’re an Outlander fan and have been dying to follow in Jamie and Claire’s footsteps, buckle up and hold on, because we’re about to get you there using points and miles.

    For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

    Award flights to Scotland

    We’re in luck here as Outlander takes place in Scotland and most of the TV show was filmed there (even for scenes based in America), so we just need to get to the UK in order to begin our journey. London is a huge hub and a short hop from Edinburgh, so that’s where we’ll start.

    Related: The best ways to get to Europe using points and miles

    Here are a couple of examples of how you can use points and miles to get to Scotland:

    Once in London, you can either fly to Edinburgh via British Airways for just a few thousand Avios, or simply hop the train north. You could pay for your train ticket with a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, then redeem rewards to erase the cost of your fare.

    Hotels in Scotland

    Edinburgh

    We’re traveling to three different locations across Scotland, beginning with its capital: Edinburgh. My favorite city in the world, Edinburgh is the home of many different filming locations for the series, including Alexander Malcolm’s print shop from season three of the show, located in Bakehouse Close. Though there aren’t any hotels directly related to Outlander, you’ve still got a couple of good options, including the Holyrood Aparthotel, which is just around the corner from the Close:

    You can book this hotel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal for under 5,000 points per night:

    Or, if you’ve got some IHG points laying around, the Holiday Inn Express- Royal Mile is nearby and phenomenally located in the middle of Old Town Edinburgh.

    It’ll run you 40,000 points a night, achievable via the sign-up bonus from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card (80,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening).

    The information for the IHG Rewards Club Premier card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

    Related: The best hotel credit cards

    Falkland

    Falkland is a village north of Edinburgh that serves as Inverness in the TV series. Even better, the bed and breakfast located in this small village was the site of filming for the very first episode of Outlander, in which Jamie looks up and sees Claire in a window ? and you can book it with points!

    The Covenanter is a must-do for Outlander fans and can be found on Chase’s travel portal.

    Culloden

    The Highlands are a truly wild place, but one location in particular stands out for Outlander fans: Culloden battlefield, where Jamie and Claire were forced to part. Requisitioned by the real Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, the Culloden House Hotel is stunning:

    You can book it with either American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points on their respective websites, though note that you’ll need to spend twice as many points with Amex:

    Related: TPG visits the Scottish countryside and reviews the Gleneagles Hotel

    Things to do

    Edinburgh

    Edinburgh is chock-full of Outlander filming locations, all of which are free to visit, including The Signet Library, Summerhall, Bakehouse Close, Holyrood Palace and Tweeddale Court.

    Day trips from Edinburgh explore other locations, including Castle Leoch, Cranesmuir, Wentworth Prison, Fort William and even Lallybroch.

    All of these are bookable with Chase Ultimate Rewards:

    Falkland

    The main draw for Falkland is Mrs. Baird’s Bed & Breakfast (known in real life as The Covenanter), where you can recreate the iconic fountain scene between Jamie and Claire:

    There’s also the Falkland Palace, which is run by the National Trust for Scotland and featured as an apothecary in the show. Tickets are 13 pounds ($16) and while it?s not possible to purchase these tickets using points on a bank portal, you can use cash back earned with cards like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card (which also earns 4% cash back on entertainment) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited (which earns 1.5% back on all purchases) to offset the cost of your tickets.

    Otherwise, you can wander around the city, which functioned as Inverness for the first two seasons of the show.

    Related: The best cash back credit cards

    Culloden

    Though there’s not much to do at Culloden other than, well, see Culloden, there are tours that will take you around the rest of the Highlands. Do it all together: Head to the battlefield to check out Clan Fraser’s stone and walk the location that marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion before heading off to see the standing stones and Beauty Priory, where Claire had her fortune read by the seer Maisri.

    You can book tours with points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal:

    Bottom line

    Outlander continues to grow in popularity ? with no end in sight. Do yourself a favor and visit the sites to experience the wild beauty of Scotland for yourself. You can do it at a fraction of the cost with points and miles from the best travel rewards credit cards.

    Featured photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy.

  • Deal alert: Business-class flights to Europe from $1,910 round-trip (3061 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 11:00:00 -0500Deal alert: Business-class flights to Europe from $1,910 round-tripThe Points Guy

    For more TPG news and deals delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter here: https://thepointsguy.com/mailing-list/

    Business class flights to Europe from four U.S. cities just dropped as low as $1,910 round-trip.

    These low fares are primarily run and operated by United, but the one especially low fare is aboard Condor Air from Seattle (SEA) to Frankfurt (FRA) for just $1,910 round-trip. For those unfamiliar with the airline, check out our review of its business class product. Condor is a part of Alaska’s Mileage Plus program, which has some pretty sweet award opportunities.

    When it comes to United Polaris, the product varies by route and plane so be sure to check out TPG’s ultimate guide. For example, the Newark (EWR) to Porto (OPO) route features a 2-2 configuration which United Premier 1k holder Zach Honig says is a good  option when traveling with a companion in his ranking of United business class seats ranked from best to worst.

    To search, head to Google Flights or the American Express travel portal and enter your origin and destination cities. Scroll through the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you. Finally, click through to book directly with the airline or an OTA.

    Airline: United, Swiss, Condor
    Routes:  SEA/EWR/JFK/ORD/MIA to FRA/BCN/DUB/OPO/MXP/AMS/ZRH
    Cost: $1,910 in business class
    Dates: December 2019 – May 2020, depending on route
    Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare), Citi Premier? CardChase Sapphire Reserve (3x on airfare), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare when booked directly with the airline) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)

    Here are a few examples of what you can book:

    Seattle(SEA) to Frankfurt (FRA) for $1,910 round-trip in business class on Condor:

    Newark (EWR) to Barcelona (BCN) for $1,988 round-trip in United Polaris:

    Chicago (ORD) to Dublin (DUB) for $1,988 round-trip in United Polaris:

    Newark (EWR) to Porto (OPO) for $1,992 round-trip in United Polaris:

    Newark (EWR) to Milan (MXP) for $1,994 round-trip in United Polaris:

    Chicago (ORD) to Amsterdam (AMS) for $1,995 round-trip in United Polaris:

    Chicago (ORD) to Zurich (ZRH) for $2,000 round-trip in business class on Swiss Air:

    Miami (MIA) to Zurich (ZRH) for $2,000 round-trip in business class on Swiss Air:

    New York (JFK) to Zurich (ZRH) for $2,000 round-trip in business class on Swiss Air:

    Maximize your purchase

    Don?t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire ReserveAmerican Express® Gold CardCiti Premier CardCiti Prestige Card (5x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). To learn more, check out  our post on the best cards for airfare purchases.

    Featured photo by bluejayphoto/Getty Images.

    Related
    Deal alert: Flights to various Hawaiian Islands from $257 round-trip [The Points Guy]
    Many low cost carrier airfare deals are ending today [The Points Guy]
    Deal alert: West Coast to London from $324 round-trip [The Points Guy]
  • Dodging and Burning in Lightroom to Transform Your Landscape Photos (4024 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 10:57:00 -0500Dodging and Burning in Lightroom to Transform Your Landscape PhotosPetaPixel

    There?s a common misconception among beginner photographers, especially those that are just getting started with post-processing and editing their landscape photos. This mistaken belief is that dodging and burning is a highly complex procedure that should only be attempted by seasoned professionals and Photoshop wizards — this belief could not be further from the truth!

    When I first got into landscape photography I was one of these mistaken believers, I assumed that since I was a beginner and didn?t understand Photoshop that this editing sorcery was something I should avoid as it most certainly had to be far above my skill set.

    It wasn?t until three years into my then landscape photography hobby that I decided to put my editing skills to the test and attempt to wrap my head around this ?advanced? post-processing technique. Once I began digging into the details surrounding dodging and burning, I was flabbergasted to find that this all intimidating procedure was actually easier to comprehend than originally thought.

    In the 16-minute video above, I discuss three simple ways to dodge and burn your landscape photos in Lightroom. And why you should try this technique now as opposed to delaying as I did, but before we jump into the ?How?, it?s important to first understand the ?What? and the ?Why?.

    What is Dodging & Burning?

    It?s quite simple honestly, dodging means to brighten an area of your image and burning means to darken an area of your image.

    Why Should You Dodge & Burn?

    There are many reasons to dodge and burn a photo, but the main reasons for me are to create shape and dimension in an otherwise flat looking image and to complexify light and direct the viewer’s attention to certain areas of a photo. The eye is naturally drawn to areas of brightness and at the same time generally ignores areas of darkness. Dodging and burning allow you to take advantage of this.

    How Do You Dodge & Burn?

    There are three ways to dodge and burn your photos in Lightroom. Below are the methods I use on my landscape images.

    Adjustment Brush

    In this section within Lightroom, there?s actually an effect called ?Dodge (Lighten)? and Burn (?Darken)?. I always start with dodging and set the feather to 100 and flow to 50 and paint the effect directly onto areas of highlights and then do the adverse with burning by painting areas of shadow. This will add shape and dimension to your image.

    Radial Filter

    This approach is similar to the adjustment brush but is designed around creating circular or oval areas of the effect. You still have access to the Dodge (Lighten) and Burn (Darken) effects and the premise is really the same. Dodge areas of highlights and Burn areas of shadows to create dimension and direct the viewer’s attention to specific portions of your image.

    Range Mask

    This is a great option if you?re looking to get really refined with your Adjustment Brush or Radial Filter selection. You can use either the Luminance or Color Range Mask depending on the specific situation to get a bit more targeted with your adjustment.

    In Summary

    To close out, that?s the What, Why, and the How with regards to Dodging and Burning inside of Lightroom. Once I began practicing this technique, I was not only surprised by how easy it was to begin implementing, but I was also impressed by the results that could be achieved. I quickly found that Dodging and Burning is one of those techniques that you don?t fully understand what you?re missing until you try it for yourself.

    P.S. If you enjoyed this video and article, you can find more by subscribing to my YouTube channel.

    About the author: Mark Denney is a landscape photographer based in North Carolina. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

  • United now charging more miles for flights within 30 days, including on partners (5556 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 10:45:00 -0500United now charging more miles for flights within 30 days, including on partnersThe Points Guy

    Nov. 15 marked the sad-but-expected end of United’s published award charts for its own operated flights with one positive change: the elimination of the close-in cash booking fee. When we ran a number of United.com award pricing searches in the mid- to late-afternoon on the 15th, pricing looked roughly as it did before ? just minus the $75 close-in booking fee.

    But then, as laptops were being closed for the day, something happened. Early in the evening, United seems to have flipped a switch. A somewhat surprising switch. While the $75 close-in booking fee within 21 days of departure still looks to be abolished, as of Friday night it appears to have been replaced with an increase in the number of miles required for award flights within 30 days of departure, including on partner awards.

    Award flights within 30 days cost more miles

    Friday night, United award prices jumped by up to 3,500 miles each way if you are booking an award flight that departs within the next 30 days.

    The $75 cash close-in booking penalty that impacted those without United elite status or a United Club Card went away, but now all United travelers ? even those with top-tier United status ? have to spend more miles to travel within 30 days.

    Our tests conducted in accounts without status, with mid-tier MileagePlus Gold status, with co-branded cardholders and even with top-tier MileagePlus 1k status all show that the T-30 day award price upcharge can be as few as 1,500 miles and as high as 3,500 miles over previous award prices.

    Here’s mid-November through mid-December economy award prices for Newark (EWR) – Los Angeles (LAX). The old saver award price of 12,500 miles each way won’t be seen until exactly a month out on Dec. 16. Prior to that, the lowest “saver” award prices will be 1,500 – 2,500 miles over that previous price point in this example.

    This seems to impact all award prices. For example, earlier Friday, some close-in flights from Houston – Orlando were just 5,000 miles + $5.60 each way ? a great value. However, once “the switch flipped,” those exact same flights went to 7,000 miles + $5.60 each way. You likely won’t see a 5,000-mile award within 30 days at this point.

    (Though without a published award chart, this could all change again tomorrow. Or in 5 minutes.)

    When it comes to close-in pricing, United’s site says:

    Award pricing is based on a variety of factors, including demand, route, airline, and how far in advance the award ticket is purchased. Generally, booking your award flight further in advance will help you find the lowest price, and booking closer to departure may result in a higher price.

    For those keeping score, the trend of not tacking on an additional cash close-in booking fee but rather pricing closer-in awards at higher award rates across the board didn’t originate with United. Delta did it first. 3,500 miles is a better price than the previously charged $75 close-in fee, but it is disappointing to add an upcharge right after taking the fee away and to not give any notice to loyalty program members.

    Close-in mileage charge also applies to partner award costs

    As expected for the post-Nov. 15 changes, United still has a published partner award chart ? at least for now. But, like United award prices, the miles needed to book close-in partner awards are going up as well.

    Here’s a business class award on EVA from Houston (IAH) – Taipei (TPE) that costs 83,500 miles on a Nov. 26 departure date. But, if you get at least a month out from departure, that number will go back to 80,000 miles.

    The partner award chart is now indicative of the “lowest possible price for partner award travel, but there may be flights that require a higher number of miles than what?s listed in the chart.” United’s site says “you?ll find the exact number of miles you need at booking.” So, there is still a published partner award chart, but it just lists the starting prices. This means partner award prices could also vary.

    As recently as October 3, Luc Bondar, United’s VP of Loyalty, said Friday’s changes would not affect partner pricing (excluding itineraries that also have a United-operated segment). The close-in fee of 3,500 miles by itself isn’t welcome, but also not the end of the world. However, since the United site now says the partner chart is just listing starting prices and with the close-in upcharge already applying, we have little reason to think there’s a published cap to where it can go.

    Bottom line

    We reached out to United this morning for comment on the apparent close-in mileage upcharge as well as the potential for partner prices to increase. We will update this story as soon as we hear back. For now, it looks like all United MileagePlus members will pay for the convenience of using miles within a month of departure. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see partner award costs creep into a variable range.

    If you want to keep up with other upcoming United MileagePlus changes, check out these articles:

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips!

    Featured image courtesy of United Airlines

    Related
    Take the whole family to Hawaii or spend a month in a van — Here are the 6 best ways to use 200,000 Capital One miles or $2,000 cash back [Million Mile Secrets]
    How to get to New York City on points and miles [The Points Guy]
    The day has arrived: United award charts are no more [The Points Guy]
  • Debian Project Drafts General Resolution on Init-System Diversity (3113 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 10:34:00 -0500Debian Project Drafts General Resolution on Init-System DiversitySlashdot

    Debian "is heading toward a new general resolution to decide at what level init systems other than systemd should be supported," reports LWN.net. "I'm absolutely convinced we've reached a point where in order to respect the people trying to get work done, we need to figure out where we are as a project," writes Debian project leader Sam Hartman. "We can either decide that this is work we want to facilitate, or work that we as a project decide is not important." LWN.net reports: The immediate motivation for a reconsideration would appear to be the proposed addition of elogind, a standalone fork of the systemd-logind daemon, to Debian. Elogind would provide support for systemd's D-Bus-based login mechanism -- needed to support small projects like the GNOME desktop -- without the need for systemd itself. The addition of elogind has been controversial; it is a difficult package to integrate for a number of reasons. Much of the discussion has evidently been carried out away from the mailing lists, but some context on the problem can be found in this bug report. In short: merging elogind appears to be complex enough that it would be hard to justify in the absence of a strong commitment to the support of non-systemd init systems. It seems possible that this commitment no longer exists across the distribution as a whole; the purpose of a general resolution would be to determine whether that is the case or not. Unsurprisingly, Debian developers have a variety of opinions on this issue. This response from Russ Allbery is worth reading in its entirety. He argues that the 2014 decision (of which he was a part) never really nailed down the project's position toward other init systems. That was a necessary compromise at the time, he said, but it is causing stress now: "while I feel somewhat vindicated by the fact that this didn't immediately fall apart and has sort of worked, I think it's becoming increasingly untenable".... Josh Triplett zeroed in on one of the issues that is testing the init-system peace now. There is, he said, an increasingly long list of features that are only available with systemd, and application developers want to use those features... The responses to this argument took a couple of different approaches. Ted Ts'o described those features as "the 'embrace, extend, and extinguish' phenomenon of systemd which caused so much fear and loathing." There's much more information in LWN.net's 1,600-word article -- but where do things stand now? Hartman posted a draft general resolution last week with three choices. Affirm init diversitySupport "exploring" alternatives to systemd, "but believing sysvinit is a distraction in achieving that." [Marco d'Itri later noted that less than 1% of new installs use sysvinit] "Systemd without diversity as a priority." There would be no requirement to support anything but systemd in Debian. "It should be noted, though, that this is explicitly a draft," concludes LWN.net. "It is likely to evolve considerably before it reaches the point where the project will vote on it."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Bolivian police battle with Morales supporters, death toll jumps (253 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 10:12:00 -0500Bolivian police battle with Morales supporters, death toll jumpsReuters: World News

    Clashes between security forces and Bolivian coca farmers loyal to ousted former President Evo Morales left as many as eight dead and more than 100 injured late on Friday, the regional ombudsman told Reuters, prompting Morales to decry a "massacre."

    Related
    Bolivia kicks out Cubans, Venezuelans for allegedly fueling unrest [Reuters: World News]
    Bolivia blames Cubans for stirring unrest, ousts Venezuelan officials [Reuters: World News]
  • ?Closest I?ve ever been to business class?: Singapore Airlines in premium economy on the A350-900ULR from Singapore to LAX (24015 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 10:00:00 -0500?Closest I?ve ever been to business class?: Singapore Airlines in premium economy on the A350-900ULR from Singapore to LAXThe Points Guy

    TPG Rating

    85 100

    Pros

    Extremely comfortable seats, can select solo seats 48 hours before departure, complimentary Book the Cook option provides passengers with 12 choices for each meal, and well-stocked IFE on large seatback screens.

    Cons

    Boarding groups weren't enforced, limited storage space at most seats and usage-based Wi-Fi.

    5 Ground Experience
    27 Cabin + Seat
    28 Amenities + IFE
    18 Food + Beverage
    7 Service

    “These seats are great — it’s the closest I’ve ever been to business class,” the passenger in 42C said to the passenger in 42H as he returned a borrowed charging cable at the end of the flight.

    And I have to agree: The six solo seats at the back of Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULR are pretty awesome, with their own storage bins between each seat and the window. Sure, they don’t provide the lie-flat seats and service you’d expect in a high-ranking business-class cabin, but on a premium economy product where often the primary complaint is storage space, you’ll likely be pleased with your flight in these seats, just like these passengers.

    Singapore’s A350-900ULR is configured in a premium-heavy arrangement with only 164 seats — 67 business class seats and 94 premium economy seats.

    Here’s what it was like to fly on Singapore’s A350-900ULR in premium economy from Singapore (SIN) to Los Angeles (LAX).

    Booking

    We booked a one-way premium economy cash fare for $844 from Da Nang, Vietnam (DAD), to LAX via SIN, although only the review leg from SIN to LAX was in premium economy. We were are able get a relatively reasonable cash fare for this one-way trip, and sales for Singapore premium economy from the U.S. aren’t uncommon. But you can also redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles for premium economy: a one-way saver award from Vietnam or Singapore to the U.S. costs 68,000 KrisFlyer miles plus taxes and fees. TPG’s most recent valuations peg the value of KrisFlyer miles at 1.3 cents each, so this one-way award would be valued at about $884 plus taxes and fees.

    I knew from my husband JT Genter’s review of Singapore’s premium-heavy A350-900ULR last year that the six solo seats at the back of the premium economy cabin are the best seats. I checked ExpertFlyer shortly after booking my flight and saw that only one of these six seats was occupied, although the other five were blocked.

    As a Star Alliance Gold elite thanks to having Diamond status with Asiana, I called to see if I could be assigned one of these solo blocked seats. However, the phone agent repeatedly said all six seats were already occupied by other passengers. But I trusted ExpertFlyer over the phone agent, so I kept checking the seats as the flight approached. And exactly 48 hours before departure, the five solo seats that were blocked all become available. I quickly snagged Seat 41C, which was free of charge.

    Ground Experience

    TPG Rating

    5/10
    9V-SGD

    Tail

    21:20

    Departure

    14h 58m

    Duration

    I was able to check in online 48 hours before my flight and completed my initial in-person check-in and bag drop in Da Nang, Vietnam, with SilkAir. None of the queues had any passengers, so I was quickly assisted. The entire check-in process in Da Nang, which included checking my bag, took about four minutes.

    I cleared immigration and customs once I landed in Singapore and walked from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 via Jewel so I could experience the check-in process in Singapore.

    Check-in for economy was in Aisle 4, but premium economy passengers and Star Alliance Gold and KrisFlyer Gold members were directed to Aisle 7.

    In Aisle 7, there were two check-in kiosks and staffed check-in desks. I used the kiosk to print a boarding pass but then went to the check-in desk to reprint my boarding pass on card stock. There was no line for the kiosk or the desk.

    The check-in agent wasn’t friendly when she noted that I should already have two boarding passes between checking in at DAD and using the kiosk in SIN. I claimed I misplaced the one from DAD and didn’t want the flimsy one from the kiosk, so she begrudgingly printed a new boarding pass.

    Premium economy passengers don’t get any lounge access with their ticket, so I’m not including my lounge experience in my ground score for this review. But if one of your credit cards provides Priority Pass lounge access, you’ll have multiple lounges to choose from in each SIN terminal. Terminal 3 has three Priority Pass lounges in the departures area, but I chose to go to the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3, since it won Priority Pass’ Highly Commended award for Asia Pacific in 2018.

    I’d previously reviewed its sister lounge in Terminal 2. Based on my visits to both, I prefer the Terminal 2 location for its larger selection of food and quieter atmosphere. The Terminal 3 location offers more seating than the Terminal 2 location, though, as well as a larger variety of seating. And, almost every seat has a universal power plug and USB outlet next to it.

    But the Terminal 3 location is open-air and has a food court below the lounge, so the lounge isn’t particularly quiet. There are windows next to the food court, but decorative metal blocks most of the sunlight (and also impede views of the aircraft at gates A2 and A3).

    The Terminal 3 lounge offers the same make-your-own laksa area, a choice of five warm dishes, soup and a small selection of cold fruits, salads and desserts. There’s also a limited selection of self-serve sodas, Tiger beer, two red wines, two white wines, Gordon’s gin, Smirnoff vodka, Johnny Walker Black, hot water for tea and two coffee machines. There’s seating near the buffet, but on my visit, many guests simply ate at seats throughout the lounge. Used plates and glasses were cleared quickly.

    The lounge Wi-Fi was unimpressive at 4.36 Mbps download and 4.19 Mbps upload. There were two unisex toilet rooms and two unisex shower rooms down a short hall at one end of the lounge. The rooms were cleaned and seemed to have an attendant keeping an eye on them, but there were no towels stocked in the shower rooms, so you needed to ask. There were also many magazines in the middle of the lounge.

    I noticed while in the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 3 that a gate had been assigned for my flight, and that my flight would now be departing from Terminal 1. So I stopped by the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 as well, using my Priority Pass membership. Although I found the lounge’s honeycomb cubicles comfortable for working, the lounge was very crowded, the Wi-Fi was relatively slow at 5.10 Mbps download and 1.12 Mbps upload, and the wait list for a shower room was very long.

    Security checks were done at each gate in Singapore, and there was no notable seating at the gate before security. So passengers needed to find other places to sit until the gate opened for security checks at 7:45 p.m. for the 8:55 p.m. departure. Luckily, there were plenty of activities and places to relax throughout the airport. For example, there was a butterfly garden.

    And there was even a free movie theater.

    Related: Layover lowdown: Singapore Changi Airport

    Security at the gate opened 70 minutes before the scheduled departure time, and a Singapore agent checked passports and scanned boarding passes shortly after security.

    Then, passengers were left to wait until boarding started in an area with lots of lightly padded chairs. There were two charging stations, a water fountain, a water filling station and power outlets along the walls. But there were no restrooms or opportunities to purchase anything within the security-cleared sitting area.

    My boarding pass noted that the boarding time was 7:55 p.m., but preboarding didn’t start until 8:23 p.m. There was no announcement for preboarding, though, so some able-bodied passengers attempted to board but were turned away. This would be the only time anyone would be turned away, though. Once business class was called at 8:25 p.m., anyone could board, as there were no further boarding pass checks.

    I waited until Star Alliance Gold was called — which happened shortly after business class and PBS club — and was disappointed to see many passengers already seated in the premium economy cabin when I boarded.

    Cabin and Seat

    TPG Rating

    27/30
    2-4-2

    Configuration

    19.25

    Width

    38

    Pitch

    17.25in X 10.75in

    Tray

    3

    Lavs

    The premium economy cabin on Singapore’s A350-900ULR is mostly 2-4-2, although it becomes 1-4-1 for its last three rows.

    The bulkhead seats provide ample leg room.

    But, especially if you’re traveling alone, the single seats at the back are where you want to be — and where I was able to snag a seat on this flight.

    I was in Seat 41C, in the middle of the three single seats on the lefthand side of the cabin.

    One aspect that I absolutely loved about my seat on this flight was how comfortable it was in every position. There was lumbar support while I working upright, the table was a comfortable height, and the seat was comfortable for relaxing and sleeping when reclined. This was easily one of the most comfortable premium economy seats I’d experienced.

    My seat was 19.25 inches wide, although I measured 42D as 19 inches. Each seat I measured had 38-inch pitch, which became 33 inches when the passenger ahead of you reclined. Although I wasn’t able to slide past my neighbor with this pitch, I had no issues working on my laptop even once the passenger ahead of me reclined fully.

    Speaking of recline, there were two buttons near my thigh. The lower button deployed the calf rest, while the upper button reclined the seat. When you reclined, the shell of the seat reclined backward while the seat also slid forward. I didn’t have any issues with this, but taller passengers may find this uncomfortable.

    There was also a footrest that could be manually lowered and set to different positions.

    There was a headrest that adjusted smoothly up and down. The headrest had bendable wings that did an excellent job supporting my head when I slept. Next to the headrest was a light on a bendable arm that I found myself using multiple times during the flight.

    On the console between each pair of seats was a remote near my thigh that could be removed from its cradle and extended. However, I never found a need to use the remote instead of the touchscreen for the inflight-entertainment system.

    There were cup holders on the console between each pair of seats. But these weren’t usable once the tray table was deployed — although passengers without a neighbor or in a solo seat still had access to a cup holder, since the tray only blocked one.

    JT noted when he flew Singapore’s A350 in October 2018 that the tray table was flimsy and awkwardly low. I didn’t have either of these problems, though, and actually found the tray table comfortable to work on.

    I had no trouble with storage on this flight, due to the 22.5-inch-wide-by-11-inch-long-by-19-inch-deep storage box right next to my seat. I was easily able to keep my backpack, pillow and blanket in the compartment.

    And the top of the storage bin served as a good secondary surface for objects during meal service or when I needed to get up from my seat.

    If you aren’t able to snag one of the six single seats like I did, storage will likely be an issue. There was not much space under most seats.

    And the seatback pocket didn’t have extra capacity, and the water bottle holder wasn’t useful for much besides a small bottle, camera or cellphone.

    The only other storage area was a small nook right next to your thigh. But I can’t imagine storing anything here besides a phone or thin book.

    There were three lavatories at the back of the premium economy cabin, including one immediately behind 42H. None were particularly large, but the wood panels made the lavatories feel slightly nicer than your average economy lavatory.

    There was mouthwash, moisturizing lotion and dental kits with a toothbrush and toothpaste in each lavatory. And the flight attendants frequently freshened the lavatories, so they remained clean throughout the flight.

    Amenities and IFE

    TPG Rating

    28/30
    13.25in

    Screen

    301

    Movies

    178

    TV Shows

    No

    Tailcam

    0.67↑2.9↓

    Wifi

    Yes

    Headphones

    The inflight-entertainment system was excellent. The seatback screen had a 13.25-inch diagonal, provided a crisp display, was responsive and only featured a short ad before shows and movies.

    Although there weren’t any live cameras, there was a massive selection of movies, TV, music and games. And Singapore has seemingly fixed the lagging issues JT reported when he flew the A350-900ULR in October 2018, as I had no issues.

    You could sign into the IFE system if you wanted. I didn’t have my KrisFlyer number easily available, and the system didn’t recognize my email, so I didn’t sign in for this flight.

    But even without signing in, a nice feature was that the system would provide recommendations during the flight based on what you watched or listened to. For example, I listened to an entire Tiesto album early in the flight, so I was happy to see electronic dance music recommendations when I returned to the music section later in the flight.

    Of course, you could watch a looping display of flight information and maps of your flight path.

    Streaming TV from four stations was advertised when I connected to the Wi-Fi page. However, none of the four channels loaded during the three times I tried during different parts of the flight.

    Robust-looking headphones were handed to premium economy passengers about 15 minutes after boarding began. These three-prong headphones were comfortable and provided rich sound that could compete with my Bose headphones. But the fit didn’t hug my head and ears well, seemingly because the headphones were too large for my head even on the smallest setting. The headphones provided decent noise-canceling, though, so I wasn’t tempted to use my own.

    There was a universal power outlet for each seat in the console between pairs of seats. Unlike the cup holders, the solo seats at the back of the cabin only got one power outlet. This outlet was the type that you slightly twist to lock in the plug, and I found it made a satisfying click when it locked.

    There was also a USB outlet and headphone jack on the side of the seat with the light. If you wanted to use your own headphones, you could plug your own one-prong headphones into the three-prong jack without any issues.

    During boarding, there was a plush, soft pillow in a fabric pillowcase on my seat. This pillow was too large to comfortably use as a head pillow against the headrest, but it was excellent for hugging while sleeping. If you have a window seat it may be good for sleeping against the window. There was also a plastic-wrapped blanket on each seat at boarding. Although the blanket appeared worn and simple, it was larger than most blankets you receive and was surprisingly soft and warm.

    I didn’t realize until shortly before the arrival meal that other passengers had received a menu. If I’d received a menu during boarding, I would have known that a simple amenity kit, eye shades, earplugs and a comb were all available if you asked a flight attendant.

    I’d assumed for most of the flight that these amenities simply weren’t available in premium economy.

    There was Panasonic Wi-Fi on board for purchase, though if you happened to be a PPS elite you got complimentary Wi-Fi access. You could attempt to use other data plans such as iPass or Boingo instead of purchasing a data package.

    If you purchased a package, you could pause the connection on your device to conserve data, and you could disconnect one device and connect a different device.

    I purchased a 200-megabyte package for $15.99. I attempted multiple speed tests from various providers before I was able to find one that provided a reading, so it’s difficult to say just how far 200 MB would get a normal user. In my limited usage of the internet, I found the Wi-Fi fast enough to use for emails, Slack and WordPress, and 200 megabytes was enough to get me through the flight.

    Food and Beverage

    TPG Rating

    18/20
    2

    Comp Meal

    No

    Meals for Purchase

    Yes

    Comp Alcohol

    Up to 24 hours before departure you could select two meals — for an American, confusingly named dinner and supper — online. For each meal, you could choose from the inflight menu, Book the Cook and special meals. The inflight menu offered three options for each meal service, which you could preorder or select on board:

    • Seared halibut fillet (supper, wellness selection by Canyon Ranch)
    • Oriental chicken rice (supper)
    • Tadka dal, aloo methi masala, jeera pulao (supper, vegetarian choice)
    • Roasted chicken thigh with lemon pepper gravy (dinner)
    • Wok fried pork with yellow bean sauce (dinner)
    • Balti paneer mushroom, tadka dal, jeera pulao (dinner, vegetarian choice)

    But, this wasn’t all. Nine Book the Cook options were also available and could be preordered for either (or both) meals:

    • Coconut-milk chia pudding with strawberries (meatless)
    • Herb-roasted chicken breast (wellness selection by Canyon Ranch)
    • Nasi lemak with fried chicken
    • Roasted cauliflower steak with tahini garlic sauce (meatless, wellness selection by Canyon Ranch)
    • Roasted chicken rice
    • Roasted chicken in garlic cream sauce
    • Rosemary beef brisket
    • Seafood pasta in creamed tomato basil sauce
    • Spiced chicken nasi biryani

    I made my selections just over 48 hours before departure, opting for roasted cauliflower steak for supper and coconut-milk chia pudding for dinner.

    Hot towels were provided  before takeoff, but there were no predeparture drinks. Drink service started at 28 minutes after takeoff and reached my row nine minutes later. Two bags of a cashew and almond mix were served with my choice of drink. Charles de Cazanova sparkling wine was available, as were a variety of other drinks including one red wine (Vina Borgia grenache) and one white wine (Frontera sauvignon blanc).

    Book the Cook trays were delivered starting 44 minutes after takeoff, and I received my tray two minutes after the first tray was delivered.

    My meal was a cross-section of cauliflower on a bed of grains. The dish didn’t have a lot of flavor besides the cheese on the cauliflower and the oil in the grains. My entree was served with a room-temperature roll, cheese and crackers and a cold chicken terrine vegetable salad — so if you’re vegetarian, be aware that ordering a vegetarian entree through Book the Cook doesn’t mean you’ll get a vegetarian appetizer.

    Coffee and tea were offered to Book the Cook diners 12 minutes later.

    I was surprised that only about 20% of the cabin had used the Book the Cook option, despite the option being complimentary. Departure meal service for passengers who didn’t opt to Book the Cook started an hour after departure and reached my seat 15 minutes later.

    Ice cream was distributed to everyone 80 minutes after departure. Trays were collected from passengers periodically as they finished, so my tray only stayed on my tray table six minutes after I finished eating. The departure meal service ended 97 minutes after departure, with the cabin being darkened for the night.

    The lights were turned on in the cabin two hours and 19 minutes before landing. Warm towels were distributed seven minutes later, and my Book the Cook meal was the first to be delivered five minutes after the towels. I’d ordered coconut-milk chia pudding, and it was a light, refreshing treat to end the flight. The only downside of the dish was that liquid from the strawberry topping leaked from the entree and made most of the tray including the linen napkin sticky. However, despite the stickiness of the dish, I’d certainly order it again.

    I went to the galley in the middle of the flight and saw a tray of water and orange juice. As I was stretching near the galley, a flight attendant pulled out a basket of assorted chips, chocolate candy, a peas-and-crackers mix and muffins from a cart. As I finished a cup of water from the tray, the flight attendant offered a bottle of water to take back to my seat.

    The basket of snacks remained in the galley until about four hours before landing. The menu listed three sandwich options (a warmed vegetarian snack, chicken tikka with cucumber raita wrap, and onion focaccia with turkey pastrami) as well as fresh fruit, but these items were only available upon request.

    Service

    TPG Rating

    7/10

    Service was adequate and noticeably more attentive than you'd get in economy on most long-haul international routes. But poor communication and a few awkward interactions prevented a higher score.

    Service on this flight was mixed, with my general impression being that it was slightly better than it would be in economy on a high-quality airline.

    My interactions with most of the flight attendants were professional and generally improved throughout the flight. I noticed flight attendants respond to nearby call buttons in less than 10 seconds on multiple occasions. And flight attendants walked through the cabin at least once an hour offering water and juice, as well as asking passengers who were awake whether they wanted a hot Milo drink later in the flight.

    But there were definitely some aspects that caused service to lose points. I was never addressed by name, even as a Star Alliance Gold elite. I had to proactively ask for drink refills during meal service. And one flight attendant awkwardly and loudly greeted me by seat number to confirm my preordered meals before takeoff.

    Overall impression

    I enjoyed my flight and found the seat to be one of the most comfortable premium economy seats I’ve tried. The six solo seats at the back of the cabin — which become unblocked and open for selection by any passenger 48 hours before departure — provided ample room to spread out, as well as a personal storage bin. And being able to use the Book the Cook service as a premium economy passenger is a real treat. But some minor issues kept the flight from scoring perfectly.

    Want to check out other articles about Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULR? Here are a few of the most relevant:

    Except where noted, all photos are by the author.

    Related
    Minding the gap: A review of premium economy on China Airlines’ A350-900 from Taipei to Sydney [The Points Guy]
  • Emirates CEO explains why other airlines have struggled to make the A380 work (8539 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 09:30:00 -0500Emirates CEO explains why other airlines have struggled to make the A380 workThe Points Guy

    Over the years, the Airbus A380 has become practically synonymous with Emirates Airline. By the time the Dubai-based carrier takes delivery of its last superjumbo jet in 2021, Emirates will have operated more than half of all the A380s ever produced, or about 120 in total. By comparison, the next largest A380 operator is Singapore Airlines, which only ever ordered 23 of the double decker jets.

    Emirates CEO Tim Clark recently explained in an interview with AirlineRatings why other airlines haven’t been able to find the same success with the A380, as reported by One Mile At A Time. Clark is a veteran of the aviation industry, and the man most responsible for turning Emirates into the global heavyweight it is today. Here’s what he had to say:

    The CEO of Air France has recently disqualified the A380 as having always been difficult and now obsolete. What is your take on this?

    Clark: The A380 was a misfit for Air France. They never scaled, they only have ten aircraft. Yes, we faced the same teething problems, but we dealt with them because we were scaled enough to deal with it. If you?ve got a sub fleet of 10 it?s a bloody nightmare and the costs go through the roof, [Anne Rigail] is absolutely right. But if you got a hundred of them it?s a bit different. Your unit costs in operating with that number are a lot lower than having just ten. Secondly, look at their interior. What did they actually do to shock and awe their market community with that A380 when it came to market? Why was it that it was Emirates, who took it after Singapore Airlines, that it lit up the planet in terms of showers and bars and big TV screens? We did it for a very well calculated reason. Not to blow our trumpet. But simply we had taken a huge risk and huge investment. To belittle that investment by putting in a Business Class seat of 1990s-think and a First Class of 1980s-think and Economy Class seating and IFE of 1990s-think was not something we would have done, like Air France. The whole approach to the A380 at Air France and Lufthansa was ?just more of the same.? They lost the opportunity to really define it. They never ordered any more. British Airways didn?t order any more. BA should have had the same number of A380s as we have, hundred of those. They got 62 million people in the UK and a congested Heathrow hub, that should have worked easily.

    Clark hits on a few key points here, starting with economies of scale. Each new aircraft type, or “sub fleet,” that an airline introduces requires new equipment, replacement parts and mechanics who are specially trained to work on that type of plane. When you have over 100 of the same aircraft type you can spread some of those fixed costs out, making each plane cheaper to operate. This is the same strategy Southwest uses with its all-737 fleet, though you can imagine how much more expensive each part for the mammoth A380 is.

    Further Reading: Inside North America?s only Airbus A380 hangar

    Clark’s second point has to do with the interior of the aircraft, an area where Emirates undeniably excels. Emirates first class aboard the A380 isn’t the most spacious seat on the market (especially compared to Singapore Suites or Etihad Apartments), but Emirates does the best job utilizing the extra space that the A380 affords. First class on Emirates’ A380s is located at the front of the upper deck. In front of the cabin, you’ll find two massive bathrooms that double as onboard shower suites, complete with heated floors.

    Meanwhile, at the back of the upper deck, you’ll find a walk-up bar that’s accessible to both first and business class passengers. This is a great excuse to get up and stretch your legs on a long flight, and either socialize with your travel companions or meet someone new.

    While other airlines offer onboard showers or lounges, none do it as well as Emirates or on the scale of Emirates’ massive A380 route network. These luxurious and unique amenities are a direct contrast to some of the airlines that Clark calls out. The question he was asked specifically references Air France, which holds the dubious distinction of being the only airline where passengers should actively seek to avoid flying on the A380. The exposed seats in first class lack privacy and would be better suited for a business class cabin …

    While the 2-2-2 angle-flat business class seats are simply not competitive in today’s market.

    Further Reading: Sièges Antiques: A Review of Air France?s A380 in Business Class From Paris to New York

    Other airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways aren’t as bad, but the first and business class cabins they offer on their A380s are nearly identical to what you’ll find on planes in their fleets. Neither one of these airlines makes use off the extra space on the A380 to offer any type of unique amenity like a bar or shower.

    Under Clark’s leadership, Dubai (DXB) has grown into one of the world’s busiest airports by passenger traffic each year, in large part because Emirates is able to fill most of the seats on the jumbo jets it operates. His last point, therefore, is perhaps the most scathing. London Heathrow (LHR), which is British Airways’ main hub, is a notoriously slot constricted airport. This means that airlines can’t just add new flights as they please, they first have to purchase a takeoff and landing slot. These slots have gotten outrageously expensive in recent years, with airlines such as Oman Air and Scandinavian Airlines paying over $75 million for a pair of takeoff and landing slots.

    The simple answer, it would seem, is to fly larger planes instead of operating more flights. Clark is implying that if British Airways would fully commit to the A380 instead of sticking to a small sub fleet of 12 aircraft, it could enjoy the same success that Emirates has had with these planes.

    Is Clark right?

    Tim Clark and Emirates Airline have long been the A380s biggest (and at times, only) supporters. While Clark might be right that other airlines haven’t been able to maximize the A380 in the same way Emirates did, that’s partly because of two major shifts in the aviation industry.

    Airlines are moving away from the “hub and spoke” model that requires passengers to connect through major hubs on international flights, and launching more direct service to secondary markets, such as British Airways’ London to Nashville (BNA) flight, or Singapore’s nonstop flight to Seattle (SEA). While these routes might be able to support enough traffic for a smaller aircraft like a 787 or A350, they certainly can’t fill an A380 every day.

    This change is partly being driven by airlines moving away from double-decker four-engine jets and opting for smaller and more fuel efficient next generation aircraft instead. Economies of scale aside, it’s much cheaper to operate a 787 or A350 than an A380 on a per-mile basis. Emirates was the lifeline of the A380 program for most of its existence, but even Emirates has decided to embrace this change, opting to order 40 787-10s, 30 A350-900s and 40 A330-900neos to replaces its A380s. In fact, A380 production will permanently end in 2021 when Emirates takes delivery of its last A380.

    Last but not least, Emirates has two unique advantages that give it the ability to scale the A380 in a way that other airlines can’t. The first is Dubai’s geographical position, and role as a connecting hub between the east and the west. If you’re an American passenger flying Emirates from the US to South Africa, for example, there’s a chance that you’ll be on an A380 for both legs of the journey. Contrast this with a domestic connection on a 737, before hopping on a widebody plane to reach your final international destination. Additionally, Emirates has access to incredible amounts of government funding that allowed it to take a risk on such a large plane order. At list prices, Emirates total A380 fleet would have cost nearly $55 billion, and most airlines can’t pull together that type of credit package (however, airlines rarely pay list prices and often negotiate substantial discounts).

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips!

  • Sonoma comes back to life after the Kincade Fire, offering visitors a wine country welcome (10604 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 09:00:00 -0500Sonoma comes back to life after the Kincade Fire, offering visitors a wine country welcomeThe Points Guy

    It’s my first time back in the Sonoma wine country town of Healdsburg, and I’m nervous.

    I have a lot of history here: My father and stepmother once lived just a block from where I’m standing on the town’s central plaza, and I’m afraid to find it damaged as a result of the Kincade Fire, which swept through the county with terrifying ferocity during the last week of October.

    But the shop windows on the streets surrounding the square are brightly lit, many already draped in garlands and twinkling lights for the holidays. And a cheerful buzz of conversation emanates from The Flight Deck, a new wine bar with the low-key vibe of a taproom. It’s not until I get close enough to catch the words that I realize what the people gathered around the counter are talking about. They’re exchanging stories of the evacuation that forced the residents of this bucolic wine country town to stay away for as long as a week.

    There?s no question the fire caused tragic damage. Flames left more than 78,000 acres charred and blackened, and burned 140 homes as well as two historic wineries. But thanks to the heroic work of firefighters ? and those efforts truly pushed the boundaries of heroism ? the fire stayed largely in the northeast quadrant of the county, an area of steep hills and dense woodlands that?s largely unpopulated. Despite the terrifying images carried around the globe, the Kincade Fire burned less than 8% of the county as a whole. The fall grape harvest, 92% complete at the time the fire sparked, ultimately came to 95% of the usual yield.

    Driving up highway 101 from Santa Rosa, where the once-tiny airport is now served by Alaska Airlines, United, Delta and American Airlines, it’s hard to see any evidence of the fires until you notice the eerily blackened slopes on distant hills.

    For the latest travel news, deals and points and miles tips, subscribe to The Points Guy daily email newsletter.

    A spirit of recovery

    Two years ago, when Sonoma was ravaged by another set of even more destructive wildfires, the community united under the slogan #SonomaStrong, pulling together to achieve an impressive recovery. That spirit is back in full force, with local winemakers, restaurateurs, shopkeepers and residents getting back to the business of welcoming visitors even before the fire was announced as fully contained.

    The Hotel Healdsburg, evacuated like the rest of the town on Oct. 26, was checking in guests by Nov. 3. The night before opening they welcomed locals to a memorable event that exemplified the town?s community spirit, offering a free jazz concert and donating a portion of the evening?s food and drink revenues to the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which supported evacuees with supplies.

    All of this means that it’s the perfect time to visit Sonoma, enjoying its wineries, restaurants and shops free of the usual crowds (for now) while helping one of the country’s most beloved wine regions recover from disaster.

    From the plaza, I head straight for Jimtown Store, a restaurant and antique shop in a 125-year-old clapboard storefront and gas station that happens to be located in the Alexander Valley, the area hardest hit by the fire. Like many Jimtown fans, I had obsessively followed owner Carrie Brown and her family?s Facebook posts reassuring readers of the building?s safety and testifying to the bravery of the firefighters who saved it.

    Now, savoring one of chef Peter Brown?s signature brie and chopped olive sandwiches on a sourdough roll, I notice that replanting of the valley’s charred vineyards is already underway.

    Even Soda Rock Winery, which lost its 150-year-old winery building to the flames fire, has already begun hosting tastings in a surviving barn under the protective eye of the winery?s mascot, a 40-foot-long steel sculpture of a wild boar named Lord Snort. The sculpture, originally created for Burning Man, wasn’t the only precious craft to survive ? the winery?s owners were storing the majority of their wines off-site at the time of the fire.

    At nearby Jordan Winery, the vines that drape the walls glow with fall color as they do this time every year, and the winery continues to offer its popular tastings, including December?s Holiday Tour & Tasting (advance reservations needed).

    In tiny Geyserville, where the fire initially sparked, my favorite restaurants are all open, including landmark Catelli’s, which has occupied pride of place on Geyserville’s main street since 1936. While I?m not hungry yet, I stop by Diavola Pizzeria & Salumeria, which delivered free pizzas to first responders throughout the fire, to say thank you and check out the scene.

    Next I head for Dry Creek Valley to the west of town, my own personal favorite wine tasting region. My destination is House of Flowers, the newly opened tasting room of Flowers Vineyards and Winery on Westside Road. Known for their pioneering role in growing pinot noir and chardonnay far to the west on the craggy Sonoma Coast, Flowers was too remote to host tastings until this summer, when they opened this decidedly more luxurious garden gathering spot. As I settle into a rattan armchair on a sunny terrace with one of Flowers? light, cool-climate chardonnays in hand, there’s no visible sign of the fire as far as I can see.

    At the southeastern end of Westside Road I drop in to check on Porter Creek Vineyards, a throwback to the days when Sonoma wineries were casual family-run affairs. With chickens pecking about between weathered wood barns and Poppy the Aussie shepherding me around, I’m reassured to see some things remain unchanged.

    Sleeping in Sonoma

    Members of Marriott Bonvoy and other loyalty programs have many properties to choose from in Sonoma County, among them Hotel Trio Healdsburg, open just a year this fall. This new Residence Inn by Marriott is sure to be a favorite of families and groups, as the all-suite hotel offers kitchens in every room and bikes at the ready. You can book the Category 6 property for 50,000 points per night on standard dates. This winter, most dates can be booked from 40,000 points, and cash rates as low as $167.

    To the west, in the nearby foodie mecca of Sebastopol, the, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is offering a 15% Leap Into Fall promotional discount. And the Category 7 Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa has rooms from 50,000 points (or $195) on select dates this winter.

    The Best Western Dry Creek Inn, located within an easy drive or bike ride of my favorite wine tasting route, is also offering a special rate through Sonoma Wine Road. Cash rates are available from $127.

    And to the east in the Sonoma Valley, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa won accolades from locals for offering heavily discounted rates to evacuees. Book it through Chase?s Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection (LHRC) with your Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ? or another eligible Chase card ? for daily breakfast for two; an upgrade on arrival, when available; a $100 resort credit; and a bottle of wine on arrival, among other perks.

    But one of the best ways to support the residents of Sonoma County as they nurture their region back to health is to stay at one of the many boutique hotels that anchor Sonoma’s wine culture and carry it forwards. My latest favorite ? which I pay for with my Chase Sapphire Reserve or Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card ? is the Harmon Guest House on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg. The newest addition to the hotel group that also includes Hotel Healdsburg and H2hotel, Harmon Guest House has become a popular gathering spot thanks to its rooftop lounge, from which vantage point you can see all the way to Fitch Mountain ? a fitting setting for a property named after city founder Harmon Heald.

    All three group properties are offering guests a $25 dining credit toward one of the hotels? popular restaurants, Spoonbar or Dry Creek Kitchen.

    By far the most memorable Sonoma sleep is at the expansive wildlife rescue preserve Safari West, which offers overnight glamping experiences in their luxury safari tents. My kids can’t get enough of visiting Safari West, which also offers daytime safari tours ? on which we always notice we’re joined by wildlife-lovers of all ages. One-night stays start at $250 this winter.

    Related: The best starter credit cards

    Exploring beyond wine

    In Windsor, the residential community south of Healdsburg that made headlines for its last-ditch stand against the fire, I stop into the Russian River Brewing Company’s new taproom. Maker of the coveted brews Pliny the Elder and Younger (the latter known for causing riots on its annual release day, Feb. 7), Russian River Brewing Company has announced that it’s bringing back Sonoma Pride, the signature beer that raised well over a million dollars for wildfire victims two years ago.

    November is also Dungeness crab season, which officially began Nov. 2, and I spend my last day out on the coast looking for whale spouts off Bodega Head and eating crab cakes with roasted red pepper sauce at Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay.

    While the grapevines are at their most spectacular before the leaves drop, winter in Sonoma has its own cozy pleasures. Healdsburg traditionally goes into full festive mode for the holidays, and the fire?s not going to change that, with the Holiday Arts and Crafts Market happening in tandem with the town farmer?s market every Saturday in November.

    The much-loved Holidays in Healdsburg wine and food walking tours will also go on as planned, strolling the tree-lined streets and visiting boutiques, tasting rooms and restaurants serving up baked goods, port wine, chocolates and other delicacies all paired with local wines.

    For two days in January, Sonoma Wine Road will host Winter Wineland, with participating wineries offering catered tastings and pairings under one ticket. And any day of the year the Wine Road tasting pass is a bargain at $35, giving you access to 65 different wineries in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys.

    For Sonoma fans who can?t visit in person, the county has created a #SipSonoma offer providing $5 shipping on cases of wine through Nov. 22. And Corazón Healdsburg is raising funds for vineyard workers and others displaced by the fire.

    Feature photo courtesy of Jordan Winery. 

  • Copa Airlines to become an all-Boeing carrier (2677 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 08:30:00 -0500Copa Airlines to become an all-Boeing carrierThe Points Guy

    Panama?s Copa Airlines will join the rarified ranks all-Boeing 737 operators, like Southwest Airlines, with its plans to retire the Embraer E190s.

    Copa will accelerate the retirement of the 14 E190s in its fleet by three years with plans to have the type out of its fleet by the beginning of 2021, executives said on a quarterly earnings call Thursday.

    The move will see Copa become an all-737 operator, including of the beleaguered 737 MAX, when the E190s are gone. The airline operated 82 737s, not including the MAX, at the end of September.

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news!

    ?There will be cost and [efficiency] advantages from a simpler fleet,? said Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa, during the call.

    Copa will replace the E190s in its fleet with new 737 MAX jets, he said. The carrier expects its six 737 MAX 9s to return to service around mid-February, and deliveries to resume in the first quarter.

    The airline anticipates at least 13 MAX deliveries in 2020.

     

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    Copa currently operates 14 E190s with up to 100 seats. The jets fly between the airline’s Panama City (PTY) hub and 35 cities in Latin America, including Bogota (BOG), Guadalajara (GDL) and Lima (LIM), in November, according to Cirium schedule data.

    Related: Flying Copa (Embraer 190, Boeing 737) in Coach From Guatemala to NYC via Panama

    While the MAX will replace the E190s in Copa’s fleet, routes flown with the E-Jets will shift to smaller 737s, including the 737-700, said Heilbron. This will reduce the downward pressure on fares that may result from the added seats in smaller markets.

    Copa is one of several carriers retiring the E190 in the next few years. In 2020 alone, American Airlines will retire its 20 E190s, and Air Canada and JetBlue Airways will begin replacing their E-Jets with Airbus A220s. Avianca plans to remove the type by the end of this year.

    All of the carriers cite cost and operating benefits from removing the type in favor of either Airbus A319s, like at American and Avianca, or new generation A220s, like at Air Canada and JetBlue.

    Copa is a codeshare partner with United Airlines. The two carriers are in the process of forming an expansive joint venture partnership with Avianca and Azul covering flights between Latin America and the U.S.

    Related: Azul could join giant Latin America alliance sought by United, Avianca, Copa

    Featured image by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

  • The priciest U.S. airports, how to handle food poisoning on a flight, and more (2228 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 08:00:00 -0500The priciest U.S. airports, how to handle food poisoning on a flight, and moreThe Points Guy

    Each Saturday, we round up the top miles, points and travel news that you might have missed on TPG this week. Here?s what you need to know:

    I got food poisoning on a flight. Here’s what happened.

    A TPG staffer got violently ill on a long-haul flight from Cape Town to Paris. Here’s what happened, and what precautions you can take if you ever find yourself in the same situation.

    Stormtroopers send travelers to a galaxy far away

    One of United’s planes is rocking a new look.

    United eliminates award charts in favor of dynamic pricing

    This almost always means bad news for loyal customers, and things already weren’t looking good.

    United no longer the right airline for you? Here are three other Star Alliance partners to consider

    If you’re going to lose out because of United’s changes, here are some alternatives.

    Venice is knee-deep in flood water

    A number of historical buildings have been impacted.

    These are the priciest and cheapest airports in the U.S.

    We based our metrics on factors such as the average price of a flight, the daily parking rates and the cost of a 12-ounce black coffee.

    American will now offer different compensation for voluntary bumps

    Here’s what’s you should know.

    Hyatt opened a new resort. Here’s why they shouldn’t have [yet]

    Nothing was quite right or ready, from the water park to the pool to even the credit card machine at checkout.

    Expedia penalizes hotels that charge resort fees

    In one of the most customer-friendly moves in the travel industry this year, Expedia announced that it will lower search results for hotels with resort fees

    ICYMI: Meet the veterans who work for The Points Guy

    Take a moment to learn about the veterans on our staff here at TPG.

    Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more travel tips!

    Featured photo by Getty Images.

  • Leopards, Leaves And Lizards This Week On Light Stalking (296 characters)

    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 08:00:00 -0500Leopards, Leaves And Lizards This Week On Light StalkingLight Stalking

    Hi there fellow Light Stalkers, and welcome once again to your weekly wrap-up. As per usual our forums were filled with beautiful photographs, helpful and interesting discussions and feedback from...

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