Domes Versus Lid

Idaho has a beautiful state capitol building.  Built in the early 20th century, it is an elegant classical structure that anchors one end of downtown Boise.

Like many state capitol buildings in the United States, the Idaho state capitol building has a soaring dome that bears a clear resemblance to the dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  The dome puts the Idaho capitol building into the clear majority of U.S. capitol buildings.  By one count, 38 of the 50 states have a state capitol building with some kind of dome.

Ohio isn’t one of them.  Instead of a dome, Ohio’s state capitol building has a rotunda with a kind of lid on it.  Whereas the domes project lofty, aspirational sentiments, Ohio’s lid has a more practical feel to it.  It’s as if the architects of the building worried that the debates within might some day reach a boiling point, and designed it so that a giant hand could reach down, remove the lid from the top of the kettle, and relieve the pressure.

Idaho’s state capitol is beautiful, as most domed buildings are.  Ohio’s is pretty in its own way, but also has the benefit of being unique.

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Excited About Fries!

I passed this sign on the door of a Boise gyro shop yesterday and it made me laugh. When was the last time that French fries, long a staple of the American fast food diet, merited an exclamation point? 1948? And I’m in Idaho, for gosh sakes — the potato capital of the world, where you would expect every eatery to feature spuds galore. And it’s a gyro shop, to boot; gyros and fries have been linked since time immemorial.

So the Gyro Shack is just now adding fries to the menu? There’s a back story there somewhere.

The Points Imperative

I’m on the road today, staying at a hotel I’ve stayed at before.  When I arrived at my room last night, I found something new positioned on the TV remote control — a notice encouraging me to make “the green choice,” turn down housekeeping, and earn 250 bonus “rewards” points in the bargain.

Like most — if not all — business travelers, I’m a participant in various rewards programs for airlines and hotels.  Unlike some people, I’m not a fiend about it.  I don’t have a credit card associated with an airline or hotel chain that would give me double and triple rewards and allow me to really maximize point accumulation, and I don’t plan my travel around using one airline or staying in one hotel chain to concentrate my points and earn rewards faster.  I know that this costs me the ability to rack up rewards more quickly, but I’d rather take the most convenient flight and stay in the most convenient place, regardless of whether it’s my preferred rewards option, and if that means it takes a lot longer to get those free nights or free flights, so be it.  Convenience today is more important to me than potential free vacations down the road.

It’s interesting, though, that the rewards programs now seem to be morphing into an even more general behavioral modification device and incentive program.  I’ve been receiving emails from one hotel chain promising me points if I take surveys that will take 5 or 10 minutes to complete, for example.  And now a hotel chain thinks that an offer of 250 rewards points might just tip the balance and incentivize me and other travelers to hang the “no service needed” notice on the outside door handle of our rooms.  I suppose that there are some people who are so focused on getting points that the bonus points offer really could change their behavior, decline maid service, and save the hotel on housekeeping-related costs.  (I decline the maid service as a matter of course, points or no points.)

It would be interesting to know what kind of studies were done to develop these points incentive programs, and how successful they are at producing the desired behavior.  How did the hotel chain decide that 250 points — as opposed to 500 points, or 1000 — was sufficient to entice people to reject maid service, and is the program working as intended?  I’m not an expert in these programs, obviously, but 250 points doesn’t seem like a lot.  Was part of the points decision-making process in that case to make the “bonus” large enough for people to care about, but small enough that people would need to engage in the kind of long-term behavioral change that would really produce savings for the hotel chain?  And how many people are really willing to answer detailed surveys about their backgrounds, personal interests, and preferences in exchange for 1,000 of those coveted points?

For some people, maximizing point accumulation apparently is an imperative, and we can expect the airlines, and hotels, and other rewards program businesses to continue to use the programs to encourage us to change what we do and how we do it.

 

Off The Schneid — In Spectacular Fashion

The Columbus Blue Jackets came into the National Hockey League in the 2000-01 season.  In the 19 years since, the team has made the playoffs several times, but it has never won a single playoff series, and every year, dedicated Blue Jackets fans have gone home disappointed.

fans_celebrate_columbus_blue_jackets_swe_9_82832195_ver1.0_1280_720Until now.  This year, the Blue Jackets and their fans are off the schneid — and in spectacular fashion, too.

The Blue Jackets made the playoffs on the last weekend of the regular season.  As the eighth seed, they had to face the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning, which had tied the NHL record for the number of wins in a season, racked up an absurd number of points, and led the NHL in virtually every statistical category.  Tampa Bay was a prohibitive favorite in the series, and no one outside of the hopeful Columbus fan base gave the Blue Jackets much of a chance.

And yet, the CBJ won.  And they not only won, they did so in dominant fashion, sweeping the Lightning and capping off their triumph with a 7-3 win last night.  The fact that the Blue Jackets beat the Lightning at all is extraordinary — the Lightning were the biggest favorites to lose a playoff series since 2010 — but the fact that the CBJ won in a sweep is historic.  Tampa Bay is the first team in the NHL’s expansion era to get swept in the first round of the playoffs after leading the league in points during the regular season.  That means the Blue Jackets have done something no team has done in more than 50 years.

I’m thrilled for the Blue Jackets, for their fans who get to savor the taste of a playoff series win, and also for Columbus itself, which will enjoy some of the fun and excitement and craziness as the NHL playoffs move forward and the city’s home team advances.  The CBJ will play the winner of the Boston-Toronto series in the next round.

March on, CBJ!

See The Treasures While You Can

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The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral is a devastating event for those of us who celebrate the ingenuity and creativity of our predecessors — but also teaches an important lesson.

Notre Dame is a central landmark in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a treasure of western civilization, with its Gothic architectural grandeur and exquisite rose window and flying buttresses and soaring ceilings that seem to reach up to heaven itself.  Generations of Parisians and travelers have marveled at the cathedral’s magnificence, enjoyed the quiet solitude of its immense interior spaces, and wondered at how it could possibly have been built so long ago.

Now, much of that has been destroyed by the blaze.  The French government has vowed to rebuild the cathedral, but it’s impossible not to wonder whether fully recreating the structure can be accomplished and how the interior decorations that were destroyed can possibly be replaced.  And even if it can be done, will the result still inspire the same awe-inspiring thrill that the original Notre Dame, in all its Gothic glory, inevitably provoked?

As I was thinking of the fire yesterday, I was immensely saddened by the magnitude of the loss, but also happy that I’ve had a chance to see Notre Dame, on multiple occasions, before the fire, including a visit that Kish, Richard, Russell and I took over the holidays several years ago when I took the picture shown above.  Notre Dame was decorated for Christmas on that occasion, with a huge Christmas tree positioned in front of the entrance.  It was a memorable trip, and I’ll always be grateful that Richard and Russell had a chance to see Notre Dame as it was.

It’s helpful to try to find something positive, even in the face of a tragedy like the fire at Notre Dame.  It’s very difficult to do in this case, but perhaps the useful lesson is this:  don’t assume that wonders like Notre Dame, in all their glory, will always be around, or accessible.  If you want to go see something, do it — because you never know when it might be changed into something different, if not gone forever.

The Backyard Wakes Up

Yesterday I enjoyed some outside time in our backyard.  It was a tolerably warm day before the rains and winds came, and I wanted to enjoy that point in the year where colors have reemerged after winter’s drabness and you can breathe deep of the heady scent of growing things.  Why, there is yellow back there, and green, and even a white flowering tree.  After months of slumber beneath blankets of snow, and rain, and frost, our little backyard is finally waking up.

Spring always seems to be the shortest of the four seasons, with winter hanging on much longer than it should at one end and summer’s heat eager to entrench upon the other.  That just makes it even more essential to get out and savor it while it lasts.

Pretentious, Indeed

The Doc Next Door knows I like sour beers, so when he and Mrs. Doc came over for a visit last night, he brought along four assorted sours he picked up at the Pretentious Barrel House. The bottles are a bit pretentious, I suppose — they hold 8.45 ounces and are shaped like tiny champagne bottles — and with handles like Grandiloquent and Magnanimous the beer names are, too. But the beers really aren’t. The Grandiloquent, which I enjoyed last night, was a great, mouth-puckering, as sour as sour can be effort, and today’s Magnanimous is a bit fuller-bodied and less tooth-curdling . . . the perfect beer to sip and savor along with Tiger Woods’ improbable Masters triumph.

Pretentious? I’ve never thought of making tasty beer as pretentious, but who am I to argue with brewers who produce these kinds of results?