Monarch Airlines: It’s Cool To Be Kind

Quartz: “British budget carrier Monarch Airlines is offering free perks, like early boarding or seats with extra legroom, to travelers who are ‘nice’ to its call center staff. The incentives don’t cost the airline much. Early boarding on Monarch costs £5 ($6) and an extra legroom can cost around £10 ($12).”

“Even if you played well with others at school, don’t get your hopes up for that upgrade. The airline will only offer these politeness perks on a maximum of 10 bookings a week and only if the traveler rings the call center. So it’s tough luck for those who are left to resort to contacting the airline on Twitter because no one is answering.”


Mobile Orders Create ‘Invisible Queues’

Quartz: As more people have turned to mobile ordering, they’ve created a second, invisible line. And when chains such as Starbucks and Chipotle don’t have enough extra employees to handle those orders, customers who expected to cut the line wind up waiting in the store anyway … To fix this” Starbucks will “be adding new ‘roles and resources,’ including sending customers a text message when their orders are ready so that customers aren’t left to wait in the store, in the second line, frustrated and under-caffeinated.”

“This isn’t a problem unique to Starbucks. At Chipotle, some customers had a wait time that averaged as much as 30 minutes to fulfill an online order. That led the company to create in-kitchen teams to work fill online orders, and gave consumers estimated wait times based on the how busy individual stores are at the time of order. As a result, wait times were cut in half.”

“At Panera, another popular US chain, adding the mobile ordering service was more than just creating an app for consumers’ phones. The chain reexamined its entire workflow, which led to redesigned kitchens and changing the assembly line to complement the new technology.”


Nike Zoom Vaporfly: An Unfair Footwear Advantage?

The New York Times: A new Nike shoe design, Zoom Vaporfly, has “produced fast times and impressive results in international races. But they have also spurred yet another debate about the advance of technology and the gray area where innovation meets extremely vague rules about what is considered unfair performance enhancement for the feet. Where to draw the line of permissible assistance?”

“The shoes weigh about 6.5 ounces and feature a thick but lightweight midsole that is said to return 13 percent more energy than more conventional foam midsoles. Some runners have said the shoes reduce fatigue in their legs. Embedded in the length of the midsole is a thin, stiff carbon-fiber plate that is scooped like a spoon. Imagined another way, it is somewhat curved like a blade. The plate is designed to reduce the amount of oxygen needed to run at a fast pace. It stores and releases energy with each stride and is meant to act as a kind of slingshot, or catapult, to propel runners forward.”

“Nike says that the carbon-fiber plate saves 4 percent of the energy needed to run at a given speed when compared with another of its popular racing shoes … In truth, some experts said, debate about Nike’s latest shoes may only help increase sales to joggers and four-hour marathoners. A less expensive model than the Olympic shoe, with similar technology, goes on sale in June for $150.” Bret Schoolmeester of Nike comments: “To me, it’s kind of a compliment when you are delivering a big enough benefit that people are starting to ask, is this unfair? We don’t believe it is, but that’s pretty flattering.”


JetBlue’s ‘Mint’ Does Not Cost One

The Wall Street Journal: “A lie-flat bed on a long flight used to be the ultimate perk, something fliers would pay up for. Now it’s a discount luxury.A new kind of business class has been pioneered by JetBlue’s Mint cabin on transcontinental routes … The affordable upgrade has been so popular, formerly all-coach JetBlue is now flying Mint seats from Boston and New York to the Caribbean as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s also announced expansion to San Diego, Seattle, Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale.”

“This is not aviation’s version of a knockoff handbag. With Mint, the prices are lower but the recline remains fully flat, the pillows and duvets still soft. Service may lack some frills, but the airline still offers amenity kits with eyeshades and lemon towelettes … What’s most prized among savvy fliers are the Mint suites. On each side of the A321, JetBlue puts two seats in a row, then a row behind with just a single seat on each side. When seats fold down, the legs of the single passenger are tucked between the two passengers in front. The single passenger has a sliding door, creating an enclosed suite. The four suites cost the same as the 12 other business-class seats and usually get booked first.”

JetBlue EVP Marty St. George comments: “The biggest complaint is the single seat sells so fast.” Meanwhile, Mint’s success has forced other airlines to lower their business-class fares.


Desktop PCs: From Beige to Beautiful

The Verge: “The lowly desktop PC has transformed from a boring beige or black box into a centerpiece of a modern desk space. An all-in-one computer in 2017 is both functional as a computer and beautiful to appreciate as a piece of design. Microsoft’s Surface Studio really invigorated this category late last year. A 28-inch all-in-one PC that converts to a drafting table for digital artists, the Surface Studio is a stunning computer that changes perceptions on what a PC can look like or do. Virtually anyone that’s seen or used the Surface Studio comes away impressed, even if they aren’t the target market of digital artists.”

“HP’s clumsily named Envy Curved All-in-One 34 is nearly as much of a head-turner as the Surface Studio. An update to a rather ugly computer from 2015, this version of the Envy all-in-one combines a massive 34-inch ultrawide 21:9 curved display above a sleek pedestal that houses the computing components, all of the ports, and the speaker system. The effect of having such a large display and a dark-colored minimal base is that the Envy’s giant curved screen appears to ‘float’ in front of you, enveloping you in windows, video, games, or whatever.”

“Dell’s XPS 27 features a more traditional, iMac-like design, where the computing components are all jammed behind the display. But that’s about where its traditional features end, as it comes loaded with a 4K touchscreen and 10-speaker sound system you won’t find on any iMac … Though these computers have good-looking and unique designs, they aren’t without fault, however. Much like the relatively underpowered Surface Studio, neither machine is as powerful as a gaming PC … Both computers are also very noisy under load, with fans that spin loudly and frequently kick on … But the most annoying thing with either computer is how lousy the included mouse and keyboard are. The Dell’s cheap plastic mouse is borderline unusable, while the HP’s wireless keyboard likes to pick and choose which keystrokes it will register at will.”


Disney ‘Magic’ Now Charges Smartphones

Investopedia: “Walt Disney Co.’s research arm, Disney Research, demonstrated new technology that could pave the way for wireless charging of smartphones throughout its theme parks. Dubbed quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), Disney Research said the technology can enable structures, such as cabinets, rooms or warehouses, to generate quasistatic magnetic fields that can safely deliver electrical power to mobile receivers contained nearly anywhere within.”

“Those receivers can enable contactless charging of wireless devices such as smartphones and tablets. It could also be used to send a current to devices that normally need to be plugged in, such as a television or lamp. Disney Research demonstrated the technology in action in a proof-of-concept room that had a metal exterior and a pole made out of copper in the center so that the room was covered with a magnetic field. Theoretically, when a person walked into the room, their mobile phone would starting charging.”

“While the technology is in the concept stage it may not be long before smartphone users won’t have to look for an outlet or charging station for their mobile devices. It’s a convenience consumers have been clamoring for and one Apple Inc. is reportedly working on for its iPhone 8, which is expected to launch this fall.”


Waldorf Salad: Not What It Once Was

The New York Times: The Waldorf Salad, “originally a mix of diced apples and celery tossed in a good-quality mayonnaise … has encouraged improvisation, almost since the dish was introduced. Soon after, chopped walnuts became an accepted topping. Historical recipes for home cooks play up the sweetness, suggesting ingredients like mandarin oranges and marshmallows.”

“Today, the Waldorf Astoria serves a contemporary version … made with julienned Granny Smith and Fuji apples, halved red and green grapes, and candied walnuts. The dressing has evolved from simple mayonnaise, to crème fraîche in the 1990s, to an emulsified mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil, champagne vinegar, egg yolk and white truffle oil.”

“Other restaurants have taken even greater liberties with the recipe … Butter Midtown has a fried chicken Waldorf salad … made with apples, endives, raw and roasted grapes, candied walnuts and a blue cheese dressing … Eleven Madison Park’s twist involves grated Granny Smith apples, marinated celery root, dehydrated grapes soaked in simple syrup, candied walnuts and Middlebury Blue cheese … At the Waldorf Astoria, the salad remains as popular as ever. Mr. Garcelon estimated that the hotel sold 20,000 a year, not including that ones prepared for special events.”


Bayou Teche Brews Cajun-Style Beer

The New York Times: “Run by Karlos Knott … Bayou Teche Brewing is an eight-year-old family-owned operation … Mr. Knott and his brothers, Byron, 52, and Dorsey, 47, produce 200 barrels of beer a week, much of it intended to go with the foods they grew up eating: gumbo made with a dark Cajun roux, jambalaya and smoked meats, fried Gulf shrimp and fist-size oysters and butter-mounted crawfish étouffée served over local rice simmered with more butter and bay leaves.”

“While most American beers are made as stand-alone drinks … Bayou Teche takes its cues from the French and Belgian farmhouse traditions, in which beers are meant to be served at the table as part of a meal … In addition to their regular roster of about a dozen craft ales, the Knott brothers also make two only-in-Acadiana spring specials. One is for the Courir de Mardi Gras, the old Cajun version of the holiday celebrated in towns throughout the region on Fat Tuesday … The beer is wheaty, slightly hoppy and high-alcohol … it pairs well with the complex flavors of a gumbo … The other Bayou Teche spring ale is made to go with the crawfish that appear January through June.”

“Many of the special beers the brothers have produced over the years incorporate southern Louisiana ingredients, like local raw sugar, rice and hot peppers. Not all have worked — most notably a beer called Shrimp and Grits that actually incorporated hominy grits and shellfish. Mr. Knott comments: “The beer tasted good, but it smelled like old shrimp.” He also says: “We like to think of ourselves as a big stop sign. To stop and have an appreciation about what we have that’s different, to not try to emulate other places and to not try to be like the rest of the country.”


Betsy Beer: A Brew With Altitude

The Verge: Betsy Beer, from Cathay Pacific, is “a custom craft brew that the company says is the first in the world to be designed and calibrated to specifically taste better when you’re 35,000 feet up in the sky.”

“The beer will be available for the months of March and April to business and first class customers flying Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, as well as in Cathay Pacific lounges in Hong Kong and Heathrow and several Hong Kong restaurants.”

“The beer itself is an unfiltered wheat beer, which should be less bitter than some hoppier varieties, and is carbonated 10 percent higher than regular sea-level beer. It also incorporates Hong Kong-sourced Dragon Eye fruit and English Fuggle hops as part of integrating both destinations into the beer.”