First Time Grading!

GradingLast week I spend quite some time grading parts of the final exam for an interaction design course here at Aalborg University. This is the first time I have been grading exams and the first time to use the red marker we all know too well 🙂 The first part was multiple-choice questions so not much to do on my part. In the second part the students were asked to briefly define essential concepts in interaction design and provide examples.

Grading has many similarities to peer reviewing of scientific papers and my review experience definitely kicked in here. Just as when reviewing, grading is an interesting balance between being optimistic and critical with the aim of providing a fair opinion and point assignment. Fairness seems to be the absolute keyword were fair means to give the “right” amount of points, not too few and not too many. Overall grading has been a very fun, interesting and great learning experience.

A Peek at Norwegian’s New In-Flight Entertainment System

Was flying CPH – AAL a few days ago and noticed that Norwegian is about to introduce a new in-flight entertainment system. This service was announced back in the fall of 2012 and is now being rolled out. The current system is only a preview and currently does not contain much content but provides a great overview of what it’s going to look like. Some sample material in the form of a few short TV programs and a couple of games is made available for free.

What differentiates this service from what is offered by most other airlines is that it’s running over Wi-Fi and you connect with your own device. On a CPH – AAL flight lasting about 30 minutes were electronic equipment only can be used during a 20 minutes period this system is less interesting, but on intra-Europe flights, this service could be a very nice addition. The new in-flight system looks promising. It’s gonna be interesting to follow what kind of content will be made available and not least at which fee! Now we just need power outlets for our growing collection of electronic devices 🙂

Where other low-cost carriers such as Ryanair mostly have been known for lowering service to an absolute minimum and adding all different kinds of interesting and obscure fees, it’s very nice to see a low-cost airline trying to keep costs down through simplicity and innovation. Rethinking low-cost flying with a mix of investing in fuel efficient aircrafts and providing new services will probably not only inspire other low-cost carriers but hopefully also the traditional carriers, especially those struggling at the moment.

Here are some screenshots:

 

Norwegian 2012 review

Norwegian LogoDuring the last six months I have been flying frequently with Norwegian (Norwegian Air Shuttle) (IATA: DY) between Copenhagen (CPH) and Aalborg (AAL), and also did a single London Gatwick (LGW) – Copenhagen (CPH) trip so decided it was time to post a review for my 2012 experiences.

I have good experiences with both the ground and cabin staff. They offer a friendly and professional service. Also my single experience with customer service regarding a refund was positive.

All my bookings have been low fare tickets. Especially during promotions Norwegian has been offering some very competitive prices. Ordering a bit ahead can be a huge price saver. Ordering tickets through Norwegians website is straightforward. An extra fee is charged for seat selection and checked in baggage. It’s possible to cancel a low fare ticket up to four hours after booking without penalties. This can easily be done through their website.

Besides free WiFi on selected planes (more on that later) Norwegian offers no kind of perks such as free on board service like coffee, newspapers etc., but different beverages along with snacks and sandwiches can be purchased aboard some routes. When travelling domestic with only a carry-on this is less of an issue because of the quick flight (~30 min.) and I’ll normally arrive at the airport 30 – 60 min. before boarding.

With “straight to gate” it’s possible to print a boarding pass from home and avoid self check-in and counters in the airport. The main disadvantage is that you will not be assigned a seat until boarding the plane (unless you paid in advance) meaning that whatever seat is available during boarding will be assigned. Instead I can recommend checking in (again) at the airport, either at a self-service kiosk or at a staffed counter, even when you have already printed a boarding pass and are travelling with a carry-on item only. This way you are assigned a seat a bit earlier and the chance of ending in an aisle or window seat is highly increased.

Norwegian’s fleet mainly consists of new flights with decent seats and clean cabins. The overheads are spacious and will fit most “standard” carry-on luggage. Norwegian allows one free carry on bag. The maximum size requirements are very fair. See details on Norwegian’s website. I did take the chance a few times and brought an extra carry on item in the form of a backpack and I noticed that this seems to be very common among my co-passengers. So far there has been no issues, but according to the terms Norwegian can require that extra carry on items are checked-in which will result in a fee.

Free WiFi is offered on selected flights. My overall experience with the WiFi has not been good. If it’s working at all it has been very slow so don’t count on sending a few e-mails, reading the news, get the last “social networking” updates, or sharing a few documents while flying with Norwegian.

About 1/3 of the flights were delayed 30 – 60 minutes. Norwegian has an nice SMS service so it’s easy to keep updated about delays, gate changes etc.

Norwegian Reward

Norwegian’s frequent flyer program “Norwegian Reward” is pretty useless. The only benefit is that you’ll earn “CashPoints” every time you fly. The CashPoints can be used towards purchase through Norwegian’s website. One CashPoint equals 1 NOK.

Norwegian offers:

  • 2% CashPoint on low fare tickets.
  • 10% CashPoint on flex fare tickets.

This bonus only applies to the actual airfare price after excluding taxes and fees.

The best benefit of being a member of Norwegian Rewards is that you do not have to type in all your information every time you order a ticket and it’s easy to manage your bookings…

Conclusion

I have yet to experience how Norwegian deals with abnormalities like long delays, cancelations, over bookings etc. This is in general what differentiates airlines. In the past I have had a few trips with other European low cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair, Norwegian is definitely the better of the three and is comparable to US based Southwest Airlines.

I am most likely gonna be a frequent traveler with Norwegian in 2013 as well. Overall Norwegian is offering a good product at a fair price with no perks and options for frequent flyers.

Rose Bowl 2013 Final: Wisconsin vs. Stanford

Bucky BadgerJanuary 1st 2013 it was time for the final game of the 99th Rose Bowl game. This year the battle was between Wisconsin Badgers (8-5 before the final) and The Stanford Cardinal (11-2 before the final). The Badgers from Wisconsin haven’t had a great season so it was a happy surprise to find out that they managed to make it to the final. Stanford’s season has been much better. This ESPN article even describes Stanford’s season as a “football renaissance”. No need to postpone the result: a 20-14 victory to Stanford. Stanford last made it to the final in 2000 also meeting Wisconsin, a game that ended with a Badgers victory.

For the third consecutive year Wisconsin has made it to the final, and unfortunately also lost for the third time in a row… Also for the third consecutive year we are a group of former Danish exchange students attending University of Wisconsin-Madison (+ people we have talked into liking the Badgers) that have gathered for game nights in Copenhagen. Apparently our little Danish Wisconsin cheering team hasn’t been very successful… Hopefully we will get a chance to gather for yet a Rose Bowl final including Wisconsin again next year! Here a (very red) picture of our 2012 gathering.

Honestly I am no big football enthusiast and mainly watches a few minutes of football when waiting for someone in a bar etc. For me most of the rules can also be classified as “unknown”. However meeting for the Rose Bowl final has been an excellent tradition. Meeting just after New Year’s Eve is a great way to kick off the new year and a good opportunity to relax after all the champagne consumption, getting an update of the state of the world (aka. our little worlds) and play a board game or two while waiting for the game to start (Denmark is nine hours ahead of California).

This final was not as exciting as the two previous years. Stanford was in very good shape and the Badgers never got a real chance to get into the game. Congrats to Stanford! They deserved the victory and it’s been 40 years since they could call themselves Rose Bowl champions.