Maybe some readers of the blog have been on tenterhooks for the past two days, hoping to hear what meal I was eventually offered yesterday on my return flight from Maryland (blog article Hobson’s choice) after attending the sixteen annual Patent Cooperation Treaty Advisory Group Working Breakfast sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization. The answer follows. Continue reading
I still vividly recall the first time a hotel annoyed me by charging a package fee. It was a Hyatt hotel in downtown Chicago; I was attending a professional meeting about twenty years ago. I had arranged for some courier package to be sent to me, and I had to pay a $15 ransom to get the package. Continue reading
Poor quality writing usually only has modest consequences. In a bookstore, the consequence might be that the customer who considered buying a book puts it down and does not purchase it. In a teaching document, the consequence might be that the document does not explain things as well as might be desired, and the reader might have to read it twice to get its meaning.
Consider, though, the possible consequence of poor quality writing in an emergency sign in a public building. Here, the writer apparently had a goal of letting deaf persons know how to know that there is an alarm:
ALARM LOOKS LIKE A STROBE LIGHT.
The insertion of “looks like” needlessly adds a qualification that makes the reader wonder something like this:
Well, I wonder why they said this? I guess it is not actually a strobe light but in some way it merely “looks like” a strobe light. Do they mean that it is shaped like a strobe light or is encased in a clear plastic lens like a strobe light but is otherwise in some important way different from an actual strobe light?
I respectfully suggest that the writer could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by coming out and saying it rather than beating around the bush:
ALARM IS A STROBE LIGHT.
Better yet, the writer could have skipped completely any assumption that the reader already was familiar with strobe lights or, more particularly, that the reader knows what a strobe light “looks like”. The writer probably really should simply have said
IF YOU SEE A VERY BRIGHT FLASHING LIGHT, DO X.
We can also look at the sentence:
ALARM SOUNDS LIKE A HORN.
Once again I suggest the reader is unnecessarily forced to second-guess along these lines:
Okay, so I am hearing a horn. It cannot be the alarm, because they said the alarm merely “sounds like” a horn rather than saying that the alarm “is” a horn. So I wonder what is being communicated by this horn?
Better would have been to say:
ALARM IS A HORN.
or better yet:
IF YOU HEAR A VERY LOUD HORN, DO X.
How would you have worded such a sign? Please post a comment below.
My favorite travel router these days is the GL-AR750 (pictured at right). I used to go through travel routers at the rate of several per year, but this one has kept me happy for more than a year now. In this blog post I will list the functions that you might look for in a travel router and I will describe how this router does at those functions. Continue reading
In the category of something that you could do if you are at Denver International Airport and you want to pull somebody’s leg …
I recently had reason to connect from one Amtrak train to another at Chicago’s Union Station. The type of ticket that I was traveling on gave me access to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge in that train station. My layover was about five hours so I was really looking forward to finding this lounge and taking it easy for a while. I disembarked from the first train (the California Zephyr from Denver) and found a helpful map (at right). And promptly got misdirected. Continue reading
In the early 1980s, “shoulder surfing” was practiced near public pay phones to steal calling card digits and make long distance calls. In those days, the wary traveler would cup his or her hand around the pay phone keypad so that others could not see the calling card number being keyed in.
How times have changed, as we are reminded by this nice airport amenity — a public telephone offering free calls to any telephone number in the US. What do you suppose it costs the airport to provide this amenity? Continue reading
Here is a box of chocolates from Classified, the sort-of-secret restaurant at Newark Airport for those who fly frequently on United Airlines.
If, like me, you often fly United Airlines to and from Washington, DC, then you have, like me, spent time in the C and D concourse of Dulles Airport. And you have some sense how decrepit and discouraging that concourse is. The main terminal was designed in 1958 by famed Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, and it is highly regarded for its graceful beauty, suggestive of flight. But passengers spend little time in the main terminal. For United passengers, most time is spent in the C-D concourse. Continue reading