Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Airport lounge access

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 | Thoughts, Travel


We had lounge access included in our outboard flights to Iceland. This was my first experience with an airport lounge, so I was keen to see what it was like.

We had access to the Aspire lounge at Manchester. It was easy to find but there was some confusion on arrival. Everyone else had lounge passes, but as we had electronic tickets, we had not received any. It wasn’t clear on their system that our ticket included lounge access, but this was eventually cleared up by a senior member of staff.

The area itself was reasonably comfortable, with a variety of seats and tables. There were power sockets embedded in our table, but no view of any flight boards. The view was reasonable.

Food and drink

The food and drink is included. We ate our way through a pastry, two bowls of soup, four bags of crisps and a slice of cake. They also brought out a few sandwiches as we were leaving.

Alcohol is included, so if you are a heavy drinker you can probably reclaim your £20-30 entry fee in that.

What healthier way to start the day than with a pastry and a vodka-cranberry for breakfast?


The wifi was awful.

The lounge has no toilets of its own, but shares communal ones. These were tiny. One of the things I like about airports is that they usually have large and airy toilets, but these were not.

The lounge was not too busy, but then neither was the airport. Assuming it scales up proportionally, I think you would find that at busy times, escaping the bustle of the airport would only bring you into the bustle of the lounge. Online reviews seem to agree.


If it’s included in your ticket, then it is worth taking advantage of lounge access. If not, I’m not sure. I need a bigger dataset before I can really make a recommendation.


The 4-Hour Work Week

Friday, February 5th, 2016 | Books

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is a book by Tim Ferriss. It it he lays out his history of how we reduced his commitments and built a living from outsourcing everything to free up his time to live a fulfilling live.

He starts by laying out his vision for how everyone can do it. I was skeptical given how much of a classic self-help scam it sounded like it. I was full of promises about how great my life would be and case studies of people transforming their lives. I stuck with it because if nothing else, it was interesting.

Having finished it, I’m now sold though. This is a great book.

Ferriss makes some key points. Nobody really wants to be rich. What you want is a rich person’s lifestyle. Therefore having loads of money may not be required. Secondly, once you accept this, the aim is not to make loads of money. You just need to make enough money to cover what you want to do. Therefore the aim is to cover your costs with the minimum amount of time, thereby freeing up the maximum time for living.

He suggests doing this in a number of ways. Remote working for example. If you can get a remote working agreement, you can work anywhere in the world that has an internet connection. This is most of the world these days. Once you are out of the office you can focus on being productive and probably do your work in half the time (avoiding the half where you spend answering emails, sitting in pointless meetings and procrastinating).

Muse products are even better. These are small online retail businesses. You import a product in a tiny niche and sell it on for a large markup. You don’t compete on price because you are not bothered about building a huge business, you just want a revenue stream. Then you outsource everything – manufacturing, distribution, customer services. It then runs with very little input.

Finally, he talks about outsourcing your personal life. Get a virtual assistant, either in the UK or a cheaper one in India. Have them do your boring and repetitive tasks such as filtering emails, managing your diary, doing background research, paying bills and a million other small tasks.

He recommends not reading the news. I agree, and wrote about this last summer. He also advocates speed reading, which probably isn’t a thing. He reminds you of great strategies like reversal trials: it makes everything more palatable even though it is hardly ever switched back.

Of course just being able to think of a high-mark-up product in a forgotten niche is no easy thing. It reminds me a lot of the draw an owl meme:


The step is essentially “find the magic product” and that is never going to be easy. However, what impressed me about the book was its comprehensive advice as to how to do everything else. Want to know how to find suppliers, test the market with advertising then outsource distribution? It’s all in the book.

Ferriss gives details of all the companies, services and websites he uses. A bold thing to do in a world that moves so fast as your book will be out-of-date quickly. There are no abstract details here, it is all about exactly how he did it and practical strategies to implement.

How much of the stuff in this book I will actually be able to implement remains to be seen. Ferriss is clearly an intelligent guy with business smarts, and so replicating his success is a tough challenge. However, I was impressed and inspired by the message that it is possible to escape the 9-5. It is not the hollow book you might expect.


Voyage of the Beagle

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 | Books

The Voyage of the Beagle is the book published by Charles Darwin following his five year trip around South America aboard the H.M.S. Beagle.

I read the abridged version because it sounded interesting, but not that interesting. Perhaps I was wrong though. The huge variety of places he visits makes for a fast moving narrative in which you are quickly going from one place and on to the next.

He is very much a product of his time. There is little careful observation in Darwin’s journey. He captures, pushes, pokes, prods, shoots and eats his way across most of South America. When there is a really tough nut to crack, he brings out the geological hammer. And by nut, I mean animal’s shell. Everything and everyone is a species of animal worth commenting on to him, including the native peoples.

It is interesting to compare this to On the Origin of Species. In Origin, he slowly builds up the idea of evolution. In Voyage, which predates Origin, he is in full science mode with no apologies. My guess is that there were designed for different audiences (or perhaps “adapted to their environment” would be a more appropriate term).

Voyage of the Beagle

Travels with Charley

Friday, July 3rd, 2015 | Books

Travels with Charley is a non-fiction book by John Steinbeck about his travels across America. Indeed it is titled “In search of America”.

He is not a man who messes around. When he decided to go travelling he wrote to the truck company and design him a special truck. They did. When his boat was in danger he jumped into the stormy water and swam out to it. It was a time when men were real men, women were real women, and everyone suffered because of gender inequality.

He does not go alone however. He takes his dog, Charley, who is as much a part of the story as Steinbeck himself. He begins by driving across the northern states (Steinbeck, not Charley, who does none of the driving) and then comes down the west coast and back across.

It is an interesting story. Steinbeck writes about his experiences in the colourful and descriptive way you would expect.

It is not, however, a description of Americana. Probably because, as Steinbeck points out, summing it up would be impossible. However, it is more a collection of anecdotes in sequence than a description of the areas he passes through.

It also all gets a bit horrible near the end when he visits the southern states and runs into a lot of racists. He quickly falls out with them. Thankfully he is then on the road again heading back to New York.

Travels with Charley

Incredibly specific information

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 | Distractions

I was recently planning a route on Google Maps when I noticed that the roadworks were due to finish at 5:30am on the 11 May, three years from now.



Wednesday, August 5th, 2009 | Distractions, Friends, Life

Having secured some time off work I spent last weekend down in Swindon visiting Kieran. While down there we made our way round Stonehenge, Avebury, some kind of castle ruins, a rather enjoyable meal out at the local Italian and a BBQ – as well as plenty of drink and good conversation too. All in all a very enjoyable weekend.

Stonehenge Kieran and Chris Kieran, Michelle, Chris


Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 | Humanism, Life

With the long awaited conference for atheist, Humanist, secular and generally free thinking student societies finally having arrived, myself and Norm headed up to Edinburgh for the conference that would form the foundation of our national federation for such societies.

I feel I was lied to. I was told Scotland had a road network. It really doesn’t. It’s barely motorway up to Newcastle due to roadworks currently going on and after that it just runs out entirely – some of the A1, the legendary A1, is basically just a country lane.

Still we made it up there in one piece and kicked off the Friday night with introductions, a meal and some late night drinking. It was nice to have some fun as basically what followed was two days of talks, debates and lots of Humanism.

Never the less we have all come away from the event with a new national oranisation – the national federation of atheist, Humanist and secular student studies or A.H.S. for short. So all in all a rather successful weekend.