Rock, Roll, and Beyond 

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Yesterday, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2021 class. I was pleased to see that one of my favorite bands, Foo Fighters, is getting the call. Curious who else is getting inducted? Why, none other than famous rock and roll legend Jay-Z, of course. Sure, why not?

I enjoy Jay-Z’s music, but with the possible exception of “The Grey Album”, it is certainly not rock and roll. Perhaps it’s time for the Hall of Fame to change its name.

A Paean to Hipmunk

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

For years, Hipmunk.com was my preferred site for finding flights. With an innovative interface that showed flights from multiple airlines and made it possible to sort by more than just price, they made travel search dramatically better. In the words of former marketing director Alexis Ohanian, they “took the agony out of online travel search”.

Hipmunk’s front page was friendly and made it easy to start your search:

The old Hipmunk.com site
Circa 2016, captured via the always helpful Internet Archive Wayback Machine

As you can see, the front page also prominently featured Chippy, the company’s adorable mascot. The little chipmunk appeared throughout the site, most notably in the site’s tremendous loading animation. While results were being retrieved after you submitted a search, Chippy would be shown, pretending to be an airplane:

Hipmunk's adorable loader image
[Image via Dribbble]

As I waited, I would often join the bucktoothed rodent. You’re never too old to pretend to fly.

What with the global pandemic you may have heard tell of, I haven’t flown in quite some time. As such, I haven’t needed Hipmunk since late 2019, or earlier. However, I’ve now received both shots of the COVID vaccine, and a family matter recently had me needing to check flights. I visited hipmunk.com, and was horrified to discover that the site was no more.

Apparently, Hipmunk was acquired by business travel behemoth SAP Concur in 2016. Though Hipmunk managed to hang on for a few more years, SAP Concur shuttered the site early last year. The domain now leads to the most soulless, corporate garbage ever:

The new landing page for hipmunk.com
Awful. Just awful.

I am distraught. SAP Concur, you have sucked joy from the world. You’re bad, and you should feel bad.

Those monsters, or someone in league with them, even removed Hipmunk’s former Wikipedia page.1 I hope this article can serve as a memorial to a once-great service, now lost to time and bureaucracy.

So long, and thanks for all the flights. You’re flying with the angels now, Chippy.


Footnotes:

  1. Amusingly, there is a LinkedIn page for Chippy, at least until the faceless flunkies at SAP Concur notice. Maybe Google Flights can hire Chippy to work for them. ↩︎

A Retrospective of the Raid That Got Bin Laden 

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

The beginning of this month marked a full decade since the death of Osama Bin Laden, and Politico put together a remarkable retrospective of the time before and after the raid, from the people who were involved. It’s a long and worthwhile read.

It Really Was 

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Over five decades after she was given up for adoption, Lisa Wright managed to track down her birth mother. Amazingly, it turned out that unbeknownst to Wright, her favorite television show when she was a child had actually starred her birth mother. Even more amazing is the name of that show: “That’s My Mama”!

Live A Life Worth Living 

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Before Julie Yip-Williams passed away at the age of just 42, she penned a letter to her young daughters. It is a remarkable piece of writing.

Walk through the fire and you will emerge on the other end, whole and stronger. I promise. You will ultimately find truth and beauty and wisdom and peace. You will understand that nothing lasts forever, not pain, or joy. You will understand that joy cannot exist without sadness. Relief cannot exist without pain. Compassion cannot exist without cruelty. Courage cannot exist without fear. Hope cannot exist without despair. Wisdom cannot exist without suffering. Gratitude cannot exist without deprivation. Paradoxes abound in this life. Living is an exercise in navigating within them.

Go and read the whole thing. You’ll be glad you did.

Paying for the Production of a Giant Squid 

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Here in America, the government has spent trillions of dollars to help deal with the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. Other countries have had similar stimulus programs, and friend of the site Ya’ir A. alerted me to one way the money is being spent. In the Japanese fishing village of Noto, they chose to commission a sculpture of a giant squid:

A giant squid in Japan

Now you have to admit, that’s a pretty great squid. And yet:

[T]here have been questions among locals over whether this was necessary or even an effective way to do PR for Noto.

Sure, Noto only has 17,000 residents, and maybe the money (roughly $250,000) could have been better spent, but keeping the world as weird as possible has value. And hey, judging by their Wikipedia entry, I was never going to link to Noto otherwise. So I say this big old squid is delightful, and that it’s working great as a PR measure. Readers, when it’s safe to do so, I urge you to go visit Noto. First one to send me a picture of themselves with the squid wins a free post here on OFT.

A Bathtub With a View 

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

To gain access to New York City’s most exclusive real estate listings, artist Andi Schmied pretended to be a billionaire. It was quite a trip.

‘The most special thing’ was always the same,” Schmied says. “You’ve never seen Chinchilla Mink marble like this,’ she explains, imitating an eager realtor. “‘It’s the greatest in the world, from the quarry where Michelangelo’s David was carved.’ And then the next apartment would have Calacatta Tucci marble counters, ‘the best in the world.’ Sometimes it was even the same agent talking to me in both places, just a few hours apart.”

Now, it’s a send-up of luxury real estate itself, with Schmied turning the whole thing into a book called “Private Views”.

So Long, Sexy Garfield Guy 

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Today is the day Yahoo Answers disappears from the web. When I wrote about this last month, I added an update linking to a horrifying and hilarious video displaying all the ways people can misspell “pregnant”. Slate recently did an interview with the creator of that video, “J.T. Sexkik”, who spelunked through all manner of Yahoo Answers depths. Don’t miss the story of the guy who had a sexual attraction to Garfield.

A Front Row Seat for the Conflagration 

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

Down in Maryland, a woman is being accused of attempted murder, after setting her home on fire with someone else inside. That’s terrible, of course. However:

Witnesses told investigators that Gail J. Metwally, 47, set multiple fires in the home and then watched from a chair on the front lawn…

A house engulfed in flames, with a lawn chair set up outside to watch

That lawn chair is darkly comic, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Mixed Metaphors 

Friday, April 30th, 2021

The Washington Post has a piece about Kenneth Smith, a formerly homeless man who now works at the same restaurant outside of which he’d previously panhandled. It’s a nice little story about people helping other people. However, what really caught my eye was this quote:

[Smith] said working with the rest of the restaurant staff to keep the tables clean and the customers fed and happy feels like being part of a team.

“It’s like being on the football team,” he said. “Trying to make a home run — that’s what we do.”

I don’t know if Smith was joking when he said this. I rather doubt it, though it certainly made me chuckle. Either way, I do plan to troll folks with this quote in the future. As such, I’m using this post to create proof that I’m actually not terribly confused when it comes to sports.