Tag Archives: rant

Words That You Need to Stop Using in Trip Reports: “Intuitive”

I write a lot of trip reports; I read a lot of trip reports. And one of the words that makes me cringe every time I read it is “intuitive”.

I blame Lucky for it, as I’m pretty sure his was the first blog where I read someone saying that the seat controls were “intuitive”. I remember reading it and thinking, “that’s a really odd word to use, and it doesn’t really make sense, but whatevs”. But then I kept seeing it again and again and again, both in his blog and in other blogs.

If something is “intuitive”, it should be instinctual or true without regards to conscious thought, reasoning, or past experience. Really, when people are using the word “intuitive”, they mean that something is familiar or easy to use. For example, “the seat controls resembled seat controls that I have used in the past, so I didn’t have to think too hard about how to use them”. They probably don’t mean, “if I took someone who has never been in a car/bus/train/plane before and put him in an airplane seat, he would intuit that the seat controls would move the seat in these ways”.

I think a large reason why the word “intuitive” now pops up in so many trip reports is because it’s intuitive familiar to the writers and so they don’t have to think about what they actually mean to say. Again, people need to stop and think for themselves. It’s so much easier to regurgitate phrases and memes than it is to think deliberately about what you’re writing, but that contributes to the lack of originality in blogs today.

C’mon, Verizon, You Can Do Better

I generally dislike Verizon’s current commercials, but the commercial about infinity has to be my least favorite, largely because it implies things that are mathematically wrong.

In the commercial, the man asks the kids, “what’s the largest number you can think of?” The commercial is of course a bit tongue-in-cheek, with one child answering “10”, but the part that I can’t get over is when one kid says “infinity”, then another says “infinity and one”, and then finally one says “infinity times infinity”, after which the man implies that his mind is blown.

Ignoring the fact that infinity isn’t strictly a number (but it’s often treated like a number, and I’ll likely confound this in my post; I’m also going to assume that infinity, unless otherwise specified, refers to aleph naught, or the cardinality of the set of natural numbers), this commercial teaches people bad math: infinity, infinity + 1, and infinity * infinity are all actually the same size. None is “larger” than any other, so you can’t one-up someone else by saying that infinity + 1 is larger than infinity or that infinity * infinity is larger than infinity + 1.

The part that should really blow your mind is not infinity * infinity by itself, but rather that infinity * infinity is the same size as infinity. An example: you can find a bijection between the rational numbers and the natural numbers, which means that the sets of the natural numbers and the rational numbers are the same size. And in general, assuming that you believe in the axiom of choice, any infinite cardinal number is equal to its square, so using “times” will not get you larger cardinalities.

But of course, there is something larger than infinity, and that’s the power set of infinity. Thanks to Cantor’s theorem, we know that for any set, the set of all subsets of that set has a strictly greater cardinality, which means that you can always find a greater infinity. Crazy, right? In fact, not only are there infinitely many infinities, but the “cardinality” of the collection of infinities is larger than any of the infinities that it contains.

I don’t expect a 30-second TV commercial to get into all of the intricacies of infinity, but I would hope that the makers of the commercial would at least not propagate misinformation about math.

How to Make Baggage Claims More Efficient

I don’t like checking bags. Checking bags means that they’re liable to be late or lost, unscrupulous baggage handlers might rifle through your stuff, your bags can be damaged en route, etc. But one thing that I think is unnecessarily aggravating about checking bags is the baggage claim experience.

It annoys me to no end when people wait right at the edge of the baggage carousel waiting for their bags. It’s as if they believe that the closer they can get to the carousel, the faster their bags will come out. Why do people do this? It boggles my mind every time.

When people stand so close the carousel, it makes it hard for those people who are stuck behind them, both because they impede the view of anyone behind them, but also because if someone behind them actually spots his/her bag and needs to retrieve it, then he/she needs to wade through them to get the bag, and those people waiting right next to the carousel hinder these movements.

Baggage claims could be made so much more efficient if airports would just paint a colored outline 5-10 feet away from the edge of the carousels and have a sign saying something like, “Please wait behind the colored line until you spot your bag”. This way, by moving the waiting line just a couple of feet back, more people can wait around the baggage carousel with their views of the bags unimpeded, and once they actually need to retrieve their bags, they’re not hindered by the surrounding throngs of people who are just idly standing there with gaping mouths.

Am I crazy here? Or are there legitimate reasons for people seemingly humping the baggage carousel while waiting for their bags?