Gadling Take FIVE: Week of Dec. 27–Jan. 2

First off, Happy 2009!

As we marked the passage of time, Heather graced us with a look at the New Year from her angle in the sky. I loved looking through the gallery of her last trip of 2008, particularly her details about the passenger who made origami birds for her to pass out to kids. Sweet.

Here are five more posts that offer a mixed bag from humorous to helpful to downright deep.

  • Anything free gives me a sense of well-being. Alison pointed out that on January 10, Winter Trails Day, there are several opportunities to snowshoe or cross-country ski for free.
  • Planning ahead can give the feeling of having some semblance of control. To help you out with that, Scott offers 10 travel resolutions geared for getting your 2009 travel on the right track.
  • Kraig offered a story about how an iPod saved a skier and a snowboarder from freezing to death in the Swiss Alps which, as he stated, is as good a commercial as any for getting one.
  • If SkyMall Monday doesn’t warm your heart with a belly laugh or two, I don’t know what will. Reading Mike’s top 10 list of SkyMall Mondays is a great way to pass some time. I still like the Flair Hair Visor the best.
  • Cemeteries might not seem cheery to some, but I love them. As my husband said the other day as we were driving by a small, intriguing cemetery in northern Ohio, they are filled with stories. The stories remind us that time is fleeting so don’t waste it. Jeffery’s look at New York City’s famous cemeteries presents a glimpse into the past and how New York preserves the resting places of those who came before us. If there’s any indication that life has value, here is proof.

SkyMall Monday: Double Umbrella

It’s time once again for SkyMall Monday. What better way to get the week started than to take a look at another incredibly ingenious and useful product from our favorite high altitude catalog? This week it is my pleasure and privilege to introduce you to the Double Umbrella.

So often I am out on a date with one of my fancy model girlfriends and it will begin to rain. Imagine my embarrassment when I unfurl my umbrella and she sees that it is only built for one person. Sure, it opens to a 60″ canopy, but it’s just one dome. Time and time again I have been left alone holding my umbrella and shattered dreams because a girl has perceived me as selfish. I mean, if my umbrella is built for one, how can I ever be trusted to have a heart built for two?

Well, problem solved! The double umbrella has not one but two canopies! And for added intimacy, it has just one handle. I could clutch it along with my fancy model girlfriend and we’d be holding hands. And dry! Who doesn’t love dry hand holding?

As always, I look to the product description to feed my enthusiasm:

Closed, it looks like a typical umbrella, but opened you’ll find room for two underneath the extra-large double canopy. Any hotel doorman would be proud!

Finally, I’ll attain the approval of hotel doormen that I have been seeking my whole life. My therapist would call this a breakthrough.

I’ll even enjoy using this product alone. When people see me with it, they will know that I clearly have someone special in my life. Someone who loves me and hates water. Someone who is willing to walk confidently with me down the boulevard while we proclaim our love for each other through the only language that can properly convey our emotions: precipitation avoidance. And when I inevitably bump into one of my many acquaintances and they ask me with whom I share this tandem umbrella, I will confidently proclaim, “My fancy model girlfriend. She lives in Canada. You wouldn’t know her.”

Thanks again, SkyMall. You understand my needs better than anyone else. Even my fancy model girlfriend.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Finally! A useful Sky Mall merchandise breakdown

I’ll confess to being one of those travelers slightly mystified by Sky Mall.

I’ve neither purchased anything from the catalog (or Web site) nor been tempted to, and I have always wondered just who does buy a lot of this stuff. I mean, who gets it in his head at 38,000 feet to pony up for a brand new table top photo studio (from $79.95-$99.95)?

Sky Mall devotees, who I hear are legion, cite the convenience factor. O.K., I can understand that. It’s just that so much of the stuff on sale seems so…unnecessary, in terms of an in-flight catalog. Perfume? Sure. Booze? Absolutely! Special chocolates, a funny T-Shirt, a travel alarm clock? All reasonable, I guess.

But a garage door threshold? An inflatable bumper boat? An ergonomic hair care system?

The folks over at GraphJam seem to have similar, um, thoughts about Sky Mall, and they’ve come up with this nifty merchandise breakdown for consumers. They conclude that 30.5 percent of Sky Mall merchandise is overpriced junk (I have to agree), while 18 percent of the merchandise is comprised of products that address a problem that does not exist. Another 18 percent is useless crap.

I would have combined the last two, thus concluding that 36 percent of Sky Mall merchandise is useless crap designed to address problems that do not exist. Or, even better, 66.5 percent of Sky Mall merchandise is overpriced junk and useless crap designed to address problems that do not exist. Yeah, that works.

GraphJam concludes that only a scant 0.5 percent of all Sky Mall products are actually useful and reasonably priced.

The jewelry spa is not an example.

Most Ridiculous Stuff to Buy from SkyMall Catalogs

If there is one vivid sign that the Western civilization is crumbling, it must be the annoying in-flight catalogs. Have you ever paged through those things? I know Justin has. I don’t care how bored you were stuck in an uncomfortable seat, please explain to me why anyone would actually buy that crap.

I appreciate the fact that the genius of America’s best and brightest inventors is now within reach in the seat pocket in front of you but who honestly wants to “pilot the world’s first flying winged robot with The WowWee remote-controlled dragonfly” for $49,95? Or the runaway alarm clock that rolls away and hides when you hit its snooze button? The radio frequency golf ball finder? The wireless speaker lamp? The million-germ-eliminating travel toothbrush sanitizer? I could go on but I don’t want to give it all away. Next time you fly, you can entertain yourself for hours.

These catalogs are actually a very educational source of cultural insight for tourists traveling to the US. Sure, hit them right up with the endless opportunities to shop before they even land in the land of plenty. Even if they resist, they will at least understand why Americans need big houses. I mean, you can’t possibly fit “Basho the Sumo Wrestler” Sculpture and Glass-Topped Table in a one-bedroom apartment now, could you.