News for 02/02/2008

Flying internationally any time soon? Beware of fuel surcharges! Last week, United Airlines added a $300 surcharge to their $400 flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Yep, that’s right: the $300 surcharge almost doubles the cost of the flight. United claims that the surcharge is “necessary” given fuel costs, but other factors might be at play here: most types of discounts (sales, vouchers) don’t apply to fuel surcharges. So if you wanted to fly to Tokyo and had a $400 voucher, the “flight” would be free, but you’d still have to pony up $300 to pay the surcharge. But hey, at least when you get to Japan you’ll be able to buy coffee and cigarettes in one handy package! Oh, and speaking of packaging, companies have at long last started to listen to their customers when it comes to blister packaging. “Blister packs” are those maddening, clear-plastic containers that usually require a knife, box cutter, can opener and blow torch to open. They’re so annoying that they’ve even spawned the phrase “wrap rage”! In any case, some manufacturers are starting to develop less annoying versions of the blister packs; let’s hope that others follow!

How’s this for a “sign of the times”? Apparently the FBI is investigating the entire mortgage industry!

Just when you thought you had modern physics all figured out, leave it to a rusty heap of space debris to throw a wrench into the works! It seems that the old Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft – launched in 1972 and 1973, respectively – are slowing down, and astronomers don’t understand why. They’ve plotted the ships’ courses, and in both cases the ships end up about 3000 miles short of where they’re expected to be every year. [Robert Stack voice] Perhaps you can help… solve a mystery![/Robert Stack voice]

Lastly for today, here’s the hilarious Sarah Silverman video you’ve been hearing about. You see, Jimmy Kimmel has a running joke on his show that they’ve “run out of time” for guest Matt Damon. I’m not completely sure, but I think they actually did run out of time for Damon one time, and since then Kimmel has often ended the show by apologizing to Damon for not getting him on the show… which is sort of an old joke itself. Johnny Carson would routinely “run out of time” for some guests, especially if Johnny had one of his favorites on that evening. They might have scheduled Charles Nelson Reilly for, say, 8 minutes, but Reilly and Carson would get something funny going and just roll with it. And Reilly would end up taking 20 minutes instead of 8. Part of the joke is that chat shows are so structured now that this never happens these days. In any case, Damon flipped the joke back on Kimmel this week. Here’s a video that Sarah Silverman made as a “gift” for the five-year anniversary of her boyfriend’s chat show:

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