All posts in Paris

6 Tips That Will Get You an Empty Seat Next to You On an (Almost) Full Flight

A practical guest post by Scott from Trekeo for AlmostFearless.com. I’m myself a heavy user of these tips when flying between Paris and Vienna… and they really work!  Please feel free to add your tips in the comments.

My nightmare finds myself stuck in the center seat on a 4-hour flight. To my right is a guy twice my size who decides that both armrests belong to him. He spends most of the flight fidgeting and complaining under his breath. Turns out he is a heavy breather; with a head cold. On my left is a middle-aged woman who is flying for the first time in years. The look on her face tells me that she would rather be going in for major surgery than sitting on the plane. She expresses her nervousness by talking; incessantly. For four hours I experience hell in stereo. There has to be a better way.

These are not guarantees, but here are some tips I have used with success in getting an empty seat next to me.

Book near the back of the plane. Usually tickets are first booked at the front and then fill toward the back. I always book near the back, where there is an empty seat next to the seat I want. Some travelers hate the back because it takes more time to get off the plane. For me, an additional 5 minutes deplaning is worth the possibility of an empty seat.

Book an aisle seat. This puts you in prime position to make the shuffle. What is “The Shuffle?” Read on.

The Shuffle. Once you are in your assigned aisle seat, look around for an open seat. As soon as you hear the flight attendants say that the doors have been locked and you sense that there are no more passengers boarding, unbuckle your seat belt and move. Do not wait to ask the flight attendants (they don’t care). Wait too long and someone else will take the empty. Strike as fast as you can.

Book non-reclining seats. Many travelers try to stay away from non-reclining seats. I would rather have an empty seat next to me than 4 inches of reclining seat.

Book an aisle and a window. If you are traveling with another person, book one aisle seat and one window (again, near the back of the plane). Do this only if there is an empty seat in between the seats you book. It is possible that someone will fill that seat, but the chances are slim. Most people who travel solo will look to take any seat except the one between you and your traveling partner. When you check in for your flight, double-check your seating. If your center seat is filled, find another with an empty and change your seat assignments. I have used this with success numerous times.

Be the last to board the plane. If you fly on a carrier that doesn’t have assigned seats, try to be the last person to board the plane. That way you can pick out a seat with nobody next to you without having to wait until the entire plane is full and then look around to see if there are open seats.

What have you used to make more room for you on a flight?

Picture of the week – iPad printing issue: solved

Magical in its simplicity. Continue Reading →

Need a secondary display for that laptop? Got you covered.

When I’m working from home, I have a dual-monitor setup for my PC. Very useful on busy days or for keeping an eye on RSS feeds while watching a movie. The truth is, it makes me feel like being some kind of a successful trader who monitors the financial markets… “buy, buy” or “Oh my God! Sell, sell!!”. Really??!
No. But some fellows do that, I’m almost sure.

On the road I take my MSI Wind netbook, and while multiple desktops are handy, I sometimes wish I had a second screen for that thing, too – all the more so as netbooks have such a tiny screen that you get your eyes burnt after 30 minutes of browsing the Internet. Yeah, it’d though be pretty weird to set up a 13-inch LED-backlit secondary screen at a coffee shop but anything to get the job done, right? Right.

Made by MEDL Technologies, it’s called simply “The Panel” and it’s exactly what it says it is: a secondary screen that uses USB as its display link. There are smaller solutions, of course, but this is the biggest standalone monitor I’ve seen that just runs off USB. It’s also battery-powered, and will run for five hours, which… is good, I guess, but it isn’t clear whether it’s charged by the USB or not. If not… why not?

It weighs just over 2 pounds, and at a 1280×800 resolution, it’s just big enough for HD stuff. One really handy use I can think of is if you have kids, you just hook this sucker up, put a few cartoons into a playlist, and put the screen facing away from you so the kids can watch while you work. Handy for airports and vacations.

Unfortunately it’s not a touchscreen. That would have been a really nice feature, but I guess we’ll have to wait for “The Touch Panel.”

Extreme tip of the day: Pack a Gun to Protect Valuables from Airline Theft or Loss [Air Travel Tip]

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If you’re reading this blog, this might be because you are also sharing our philosophy of living the life of a Digital Nomad. Or not… but you’re at least interested in news about cool gizmos, mobility oriented design, hot news on mobility or travelling tips like the one of today.

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Though at first I found this tip a little bit too extreme (maybe because of the fact that I’m a European who is not familiar with this kind of practice and the idea of owning a firearm – and less of carrying it with me in my suitcase!), I then realized after reading this article by Jason Fitzpatrick of Lifehacker, that this was not such a bad idea, all the more so as the word “weapon” extends to airguns, and STARTER PISTOL and that this is fully covered by the regulations of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or better said, legal.

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Until you’ve yourself experienced this pain in the neck situation of having your luggage lost by the airline you flew with, which is even worse when it happens to you on your way to your holiday destination (or can turn into a nightmare when you were planning to spend two weeks skiing in Vancouver or Vail…) you can’t understand why this tip is actually very helpful.

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Personally I flew three times with Delta Airlines (twice to New York City, once to Mexico City), and I got my luggage lost every single time. Bad luck? I don’t know, but this makes me now believe that I have 100% chances to lose again my suitcase when I’ll fly with this Airline. So if I have a chance to make the risk drop to.. 0% I’ll take it!

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Read the full article on how to take advantage of the TSA’s own security rules to prevent your bags from being lost or looted by airline/airport workers

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If you want more crazy stories about bad ass airlines and if you can read Spanish (or at least use Google Translate, but as usual this may spoil the quality of the professional-like writing), you should read this story which happened to a friend of mine on his way back to Mexico. It’s really well written and worth the ride.

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Passive Agressive Wi-Fi Hotspots

Do you have enough of your neighbour stealing your Wi-Fi connection or letting his dog shit on your lawn? Today there is a better solution than suffering silently with your brooding anger: leave your neighbour “a message”! Continue Reading →

Use Better Tools to Be a Better Student in 2010 [by Lifehacker]

Since we are aware at 52nd & west that many of our readers are still students or some wise people who decided to resume their studies should that be to start an MBA or finally undertake the course they’ve always dreamed of, we decided to share with you this comprehensive review made By Jason Fitzpatrick of Lifehacker on what are the must have tools and habits to be a “better” student in 2010.

Enjoy the ride. Continue Reading →

Ten Most Viewed Posts on 52nd & West in 2009

We’ve had a great year at 52nd & West, and saw tremendous growth on our blog month after month. As we head into a new year, here’s a look back at the most popular posts on our site in 2009. Enjoy! Continue Reading →

A Day in The Life Of A Telecommuter [Testimony]

A real life story by Addy Dugdale of Fast Company

“Marmite is a British institution, a mud-colored, yeast-based gloop that you either spread on your toast or use as a cooking ingredient. It’s got a real love-it-or-loathe-it reputation–rather like working from home. My friends who work in offices are divided on the subject. “Poor you,” some of them sigh when they discover that I spend the majority of my working day–that’s 8.30am until around 6pm or so–like Macaulay whatsisname, Home. A. Lone. “You jammy bugger,” say the others, who see my status as a telecommuter through envious, green-tinted glasses, envisaging my days wafting round in a peignoir, eating violet creams and doing as little as possible. The truth is somewhere between the two–although, for the record, I would like to state categorically that I loathe and detest violet creams.

An estimated 40% of the working population in the U.S. spends at least some of their time telecommuting. (A nonsense word that, for some strange reason, makes me think of James T. Kirk but in reality is a complete non-phrase. The daily commute is what happens between kissing your other half goodbye at the front door and swiping your security pass at the office gate. For me, it’s rubbing the sleep from my eyes, turfing the dog out of the back door for his morning ablutions, and switching on the kettle, before I settle down at my desk and go through my e-mails. And the FAIL blog.) While 50 million folks in this country have experience working from home, there are just 2.5 million of us who currently do it on a day-to-day basis–although a 2005 report on MediaBistro claimed that 9 million individuals have, at one time or other, stayed at home, on their own, doing their work. On their own.

Telecommuting is good for the bottom line of businesses. It saves money on staffing, not to mention office space–one firm that makes home office spaces suggests that housing just one employee in an office costs firms $13,000 per annum. And then there’s the benefit to the environment. According to the American Electronics Association, if every U.S. worker who could telecommute did so for 1.6 days a week, then 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved, preventing the release of 26 billion pounds of CO2 into the air. And as for us home workers, well, I get tax back on anything I buy for my work–including one-third of all utility bills, office equipment and pajamas. Just kidding about the PJs. But you get the idea.

At times, working from home can be a lonely job. And yeah, sometimes it does feel like that. There are moments when I miss the camaraderie of colleagues, the water-cooler moments, the in-jokes, rolling their eyeballs at the office dunces (and hero-worshipping their more capable team members, lest you think my attitude is too negative) and that great, much-maligned feature of physical offices: the after-work piss-up. But, whether we like it or not, working from home is here to stay. Just ask Charles Handy, who reckons that three factors–globalization, demographics, and technology–are going to cause a revolution in working practices.

I’m lucky. I love the freedom that working from home affords me. I started freelancing after two-and-a-half years in offices and almost doubled my salary in the first year. Then I moved abroad and spent almost four years in a foreign bureau before returning to the U.K. and, bar the odd stint as a permanent freelancer on newspapers and magazines, have spent the past seven years in my own office (sometimes the sofa, sometimes my bed, but for the past year, at a desk in my front room. Here it is. Nice, isn’t it?)

I get to choose what I stick up on the wall (which is not painted a fetching shade of cubicle-jockey gray), what I listen to, when I take my lunch break–and, most important, when I work. Sometimes I get up very early, other days I wander downstairs and plug in when it suits me, although I know my rhythm well enough to realize that, after about 7pm, my brain ain’t what it should be. If I can’t get inspired, I break off for an hour and go for a run with the dog. Sometimes I gossip on the phone with my friends. I can get admin or chores done during office hours, go to the bank, break off for a slice of buttered toast and Marmite (yep, I’m in the Love It category) or just while away half an hour on YouTube.

Starting from today, I’m going to be writing a column for Fast Company about the highs and lows of working from home. It will touch on a whole heap of subjects, from the serious stuff like using the best software and systems to keep the admin side of your work from bogging you down, as well as sneaky little cheats to keep your I.T. costs down. And then there’s the really serious stuff, such as:

What to wear when you’re pounding the keyboard chez toiI say power nap, you say siesta, he says skiving offUsing TV zapping to increase your concentrationThe call of the refrigeratorWrestling with the IKEA flat-pack printer trolleyThe distraction of the firewall-free internetKids say the funniest things (when you’re on deadline)Hello, is that me in I.T.?

Thanks to the glory of the comment system on the Internet, a columnist is only as good as her readers. What is sauce for me may not necessarily be sauce for any of you who have their own home offices. So, my fellow telecommuters, come to the party and tell us what you think of the work-from-home gig. It’s just me for the moment, but anyone’s welcome to pull up a La-Z boy and join in the fun–either via the comments, or on Twitter.”

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Fast Company

50 Reasons for You to Choose a Digital Nomad Way of Life

And the teacher asked the children what they wanted to be when they’re grown-up. At age five or six, such an easy question merely insult their intelligence. Without careful consideration or hesitation all of them squeaked back something along the lines of,  “I’m going to be a doctor”, “an astronaut!”, “I want to be the president!”, “I would like to be a teacher”, “I’m gonna be a queen with a purple crown and a castle made of glitter and my cat, Miss Kitty, can be a princess. This last input caused less disturbance than my own answer.

- “I want to be a digital nomad”

The teacher stared at me disturbed and upset. She probably wondered what was wrong with this kid and if my parents where some kind of hippies, nerds or communists.

This morning I read one of the most interesting posts about being a mobile worker I’ve read in a long time. It was only 215 words long but the beautiful images it featured said it all about what you get when you manage to get free from this static place called “office”. And those images reminded me once again why I chose to live that life of Digital Nomad. And because we’re human, words are often not enough; we sometimes need impacting images to trigger a spark in those 4% of that little thing called “brain” to make us realize what we’re missing.

Of course, when you work anywhere but from an office there are a lot of advantages: you can organize your time as you want it, work when you’re the most efficient (early in the morning or late at night), take care of your kids when they need to be taken care of, avoid rushours (on the road, at the supermarket or at the sportcenter), save money on telecommutes (and give a break to the environment…) and preserve your mental health by working in a less stressful environment you can adapt to your personal and physiological needs. That’s not all, but that’s not bad either.

Obviously, nothing is perfect in this life, and there are drawbacks. But the fact that I can work wherever I want to work from is far superior to any cumulated advantages (call it better pay check, quicker promotion, hot technological tools, funny co-workers or yearly company offsite) I’ll get by working in an office.

There is a WORLD and a life outside. A big, beautiful, colorful and accessible world. This is what I (re) discovered when I watched those pictures in “50 Photos to Inspire Life as a Digital Nomad”.

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And when you spend 8 to 10 hours a day working in an office, what will you really see of that world and taste of that life? Okay, you might tell yourself  that you’ll keep that for when you will be doing some tourism during your next summer holidays and that it’s well enough (do you actually believe that?). Maybe that will please “the commons”, but will you ever feel the real essence of those things around you and live them for real*? You also might end up pissed at me and think that after all you’re happier than I am. Maybe, I don’t know.

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When you’re free to choose what you want to see from your “office” window, travel the world while earning a living, standing for real in the middle of those postcard-like landscapes, knowing that as soon as you get bored from a place and “lose the inspiration” you can get a train, a plane, a car (or, please, any green transportation!) to another place, enjoy from that summer holiday house you’ve been renovating for some years, then and only then you’ll have the deep feeling at the end of the day that you fully live your life.

Remember that there are thousands of jobs opportunities available for mobile workers and freelancers and that there is at least one waiting for you. It is never too late to change your way of working.

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While writing this post I realized once again how lucky I was to live this life, and that there is an infinity of possibilities to live and work anywhere in this world when you’re “office-free”. “Anywhere”? I should say “everywhere” as the concept itself of mobile worker implies that

So I thank you again Corbett Barr for reminding me why I chose to live this marvellous life of a digital nomad. If you liked the pics Corbett put together, you might also like those Kerolic, another digital nomad (not totally emancipated from the traditional-office-cubicle system – but this is just a question of time…) took along his various journeys around the world.

Other websites of interest to turn dreams into reality:

Freelance job offers on Elance and Guru

64 Ways Location Independent People Earn a Living by Corbett Barr

List of companies hiring telecommuter

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*I’m not too fond of that thing I’d call “fast-food-like-travelling”. Flying 13 hours to spend a week (or two) in a place I’ve never been before, and actually believe that I’ll have the guts to say “I know that place” because I’ve been there, tried a couple of local gastronomic specialities and took some pictures to prove my facebook friends (or to boast?) that I was actually there, is not for me. Sometimes you’ll learn more about a place by reading a good book than actually getting there; this week-end I made an impressive travel like never before: I discovered Calcutta after reading Dominique Lapierre’s s The City of Joy. Unforgettable.

Recommended reading – Invoice Like A Pro: Examples and Best Practices [by Smashing Magazine]

Should you be a freelancer or the general manager of a big company, there are a few things about invoicing you should know or at least reconsider. Drafting an invoice for your beloved (or not) client should not only be a mere action of putting figures together to come up with a big number. They also act as a proof of your professionalism and thus require that you follow some general guidelines.

Smashing Magazine reviewed some great (and not so great) online invoicing tools, so that you can spend less time creating invoices and more time doing the things you love!

Remember that if you spent so much time and money designing your business card, which is somehow the first creative and useful thing you’ll give your client or prospect, invoices are the last thing you may exchange with them and thus just deserve the same attention and care for their design. Make them impacting and have fun designing them.

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click here to access the full review