Dark Sun over Ternate : A dark Sun hangs in the clearing sky over a volcanic planet in this morning sea and skycape. It was taken during this weeks total solar eclipse, a dramatic snapshot from along the narrow path of totality in the dark shadow of a New Moon. Earths Indonesian isle of Ternate, North Maluku lies in the foreground. The sky is still bright near the eastern horizon though, beyond the regions flattened volcanic peaks and outside the Moons umbral shadow. In fact, near the equator the dark lunar umbra is rushing eastward across Earths surface at about 1,700 kilometers per hour. Shining through the thin clouds, around the Suns silhouette is the alluring glow of the solar corona, only easily seen during totality. An inspiring sight for eclipse watchers, this solar corona is the tenuous, hot outer atmosphere of the Sun. via NASA


24) Set aside money in advance for tipping…they are all putting up with your brand of crazy!

While there’s a lot of disagreement about how much to tip, there’s no question that some services should be tipped, especially at a convention.  Cabs, bellhops,bartenders, maid service, waitstaff, baristas…all of them are putting up with your particular brand of off-the-charts excitement as well as providing services that can help you out tremendously.  A number of these people are at minimum wages, and tips help them make their car payments, etc.  In some places, waitstaff are actually paid below minimum wage, with the expectation that tips will make up the bulk of their income.  And despite a huge rush of people, good tippers are remembered, and this can work out in your favor…I can’t tell you how many times a good tip to the bellhop at the beginning of the convention made getting everything out of the room at the end of it a breeze!

I’m not saying that you need to tip for bad service, but as you are planning your budget for a con, keeps tip money in mind (and make sure you have small bills to do so!)  If you are staying with a group in a room, pre-set the amount everyone should contribute, and get that out of the way early (tuck the money aside so you don’t spend it in the dealer rooms).

This is a list of suggested tips from

Food Service
* Barista
No tip required, though many suggest throwing coins into the tip jar.
* Bartender
$1/drink (or 15% of total bill). Pre-tip for better service.
* Delivery person (including pizza)
10%, $2 minimum (also, also)
* Takeout
No tip required unless something special is done (also, also)
* Waiter
15% for adequate service, 20% for exceptional service. For poor service, leave 10% or less. It’s okay to leave nothing for exceptionally poor service, but only if you’re sure it’s the waiter’s fault.

Hotel Staff
$1 to $2 per bag, $5 minimum. (Or, just as many places say $1 bag, $2 minimum.)
* Concierge
$5-$20 depending on the service. $20 if he does something exceptional. Nothing for directions.
* Housekeeper
$2 to $5 per night, paid daily or as a lump sum at checkout. (Most sites suggest you tip daily.) SPIDER’S NOTE: If you are leaving that room a filthy pigsty, I would hope you would tip more.
* Parking Valet
A wide range of opinions. Everyone agrees that you should pay when your car is retrieved. Some say to pay when it’s parked, too. Most sites say to tip $2, though some suggest $5.
* Room service
$5 minimum (unless gratuity is included in check)

* Cab driver
10%, $2-$5 minimum
* Porter/skycap
$1 per bag. $2 for heavy items, or if porter brings luggage to counter.

On  a personal note, I have worked in the bar and restaurant business, and spent several summer doing housekeeping at hotels and camps.  Tipping is ALWAYS appreciated.

Spend a few years in flight school (or alternatively, take a stint in an appropriately flight-centric branch of the military) and then spend a minimum of 1,500 hours flying planes in order to achieve the necessary certification to become a commercial airline pilot. Then immediately drown in your preference of genitals, because pilots are sexy as hell.

Or you can be a skycap! It’s a decidedly less lubricating title than “pilot,” sure, but those guys who check in your luggage curbside at the airport make a good living. They also assist with navigating the labyrinthine terminals, distributing boarding passes, helping people figure out where in the ever-loving hell their shuttle and/or rental car is, fetching wheelchairs … they’ll even help you wrangle your pets, if you’re the kind of weirdo who brings a pet to the airport.

On average, skycaps are paid similarly to restaurant servers – two to three dollars hourly. But unlike the waitresses at that crappy airport Applebee’s, a skycap can rake in $75,000 to $100,000 a year in tips. It’s so lucrative that the CEO of one company that provides skycaps to airlines said, “I know several who don’t even bother cashing their salary checks because the tips are so good.”

5 Jobs You Think Are For Losers (That Pay Six Figures)

How To Travel Alone
by Nick Lantz

The same painting is hanging on all four walls
of my hotel room: Ship at sea.
Ship at sea.

Ship at sea.  Ship at sea.

An empty bed won’t say
I love you
until its jaw falls off. The rain believes
the earth exists

just to give it something
to fall against. What can I do

from my dingy little room but close
the blinds and turn up the TV?

Some days I come out wrinkled like a jacket
exhumed from a suitcase. Some days

I’m as constant as the last soggy corn flake
at the bottom of a bowl of milk,
that piece that keeps giving

the spoon the slip. I’m that ship that can’t
find shore, can’t be sunk.

Just days without you and I’ve got
that midnight streetlight tan,
that Big Chug Jug caffeine carelessness, that one loose
toll booth tooth, these highway hiccups.

The wooden benches in the train station
remind me of the pews in the clapboard church

where my cousins are still swaying
with the holy spirit. Oh, ship at sea, they sing, you are
my ark, my raft.

But where is the cross, the portrait of Jesus knocking
on the inn door? All we have is the schedule board,

its clattering
numbers and letters, the clock that chimes and chimes.

As pigeons descend to devour
a dropped sandwich,

the station agent’s voice echoes over
the PA speakers: Here is my ham on rye, with whom
I am well pleased.

I write postcards I don’t
send. Each one
is a confession.
I eat microwaved cheeseburgers until my stomach

rocks and pitches like a ship at sea.
Your voice on this cell phone is a bug
trapped in a jar. Your voice on this phone
is a sliver under my fingernail.

How many nights will you be staying with us?
Here is your key card. Here is a brochure
to help you interpret the stains

on the ceiling tile, to augur the roaches
and broken glass. Do not be alarmed if you hear

a shout, a trumpet. The high school band
tournament is this weekend.

Your signal faded. Your call dropped.
I can’t find my reservation number.

Your voice on this phone is like a ship at
Never mind, I found it.

Meanwhile, the greasy clouds go sliding around
on the sky
like gray eggs in a skillet. Meanwhile,

the laundromat beauty queens
in their wash-day sweatsuits thumb quarter

after quarter into the machines
and pray for miracles. Meanwhile, a shut-in dies buried
under a collection

of snow globes of Paris, where tiny couples walk
up and down the Champs-Élysées in endless winter.

A stranger in mirrored shades says Take off
your shoes, take off your jacket.

I do, I do. I unthread my belt in one long pull
that whispers it from its loops.

Will a skycap please bring a wheelchair to Gate 7B?
Jennifer H_____, please call your sister
in North Carolina. Roger M_____, Roger M_____,

please return to the security checkpoint
to retrieve a lost item.

Board by zone number. Sit in the wrong seat
just to meet a stranger, to apologize, to say

My mistake. You’re breaking up. If the engines fail, don’t worry:

on our cell phones, we’ll watch
live footage of our plane fireballing
into the ocean, our own
bodies bobbing in the wreckage and surf.

Look, that’s us waving.

I write postcards I don’t send. They all start
Dear ship at sea…

When I stop to throw
them into a dumpster, I glance down

into that darkness and see the continent where I was born, as if
from space, its cities lit
like clustered stars.

There are only two directions in the map
of my life: the way to you, and the way
from you.