A Brief Review of the Aerospace Scholarships Guide

I know I’m supposed to build up to the big reveal but I don’t see the point in wasting any time. While the guide does list a large number of scholarships, there are also quite a few errors that make the product feel neglected and in some instances, becomes unusable. In my case, there was also a lack of communication from the team that handles the guide, which does not inspire confidence.

The Aerospace Scholarships website states that “Entries are updated regularly to assure accuracy.” but I don’t think they give as close an inspection as truly needed. Even right there, shouldn’t that be “ensure” instead of “assure?” I’m truly not great with grammar but the fact that I’m picking up on the mistakes means things must be pretty bad.

And there’s even a spelling error in one of the next lines on the site: “The information concerning each scholarship is presented in a compete and simplified format.“

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As a new listener to the Aviation Careers Podcast, I’ve enjoyed the episodes that Carl has produced. There are some interesting and informational guests and topics and my only complaint is that I wish each episode were longer. Carl mentions the guide quite a bit so I eventually caved in and purchased a copy. I costs only $10 and if you’re awarded even just one scholarship, you’ll no doubt make your money back many times over.

But with the “over 200” scholarships available in the guide, there are just 22 that I might be or become eligible for. I also bookmarked 35 that may be technically possible to win but could be difficult (many needing sponsorship by a current member or were part of a “group” where I could only submit two applications toward, etc.).

The scholarships YOU qualify for will completely depend on your specific situation but to give you a little background on me, I’m a white male in my early 30’s with a bachelor’s degree and no prior flight experience. I’m also about to make a career change to pursue my ATP certificate for a job at the airlines by way of an accelerated program.

As I went through the PDF version of the scholarship guide, making notes on each scholarship and investigating whether or not I could qualify, I found quite a few issues.

Sidenote: I should've waited until the book went on sale because discounts seem to be fairly frequent. I’m of the belief that if the guide is being sold at a discount, then by paying full price, I overpaid. Just like anyone else would be, I wasn’t happy to find a discount code after I made my purchase. To hear more on why discounts are a bad idea, I highly recommend watching this video: Discounts Are Slowly Killing Your Brand. I also have to note that I was given a full refund but more on that later.

I wish I could share the over 20 mistakes I found in the guide but I don’t want to give away the contents of the guide without permission. The mistakes I came across were wide in range:

  • Broken links from the guide to the scholarship application

  • Many completely non-working links to scholarships from the Categorical Index

  • Scholarships in the Index linking to wrong scholarships

  • Spelling typos and grammatical errors

  • Some scholarships were completely missing from the guide even though they were listed in the Index

  • At least one scholarship is listed in the guide but not actually available for 2019

Overall, I'm disappointed with the finished quality and expected more. I do understand that it can’t be easy to keep up with all of this but the verbiage on the Aerospace Scholarships Book website implies it would be more tightly put together.

After making notes on the mistakes I found, I sent an email to Carl. In each podcast episode, it’s mentioned many times to email in with any questions or feedback but I never received a reply, even after multiple repeat emails. A few weeks went by and all of a sudden, I was refunded my order without any reference to my emails. While appreciated, I wasn’t actually looking for a refund but an explanation of the mistakes.

Another issue I have (but isn’t an error) is how the guide is updated. After buying my PDF copy, I made tons of notes, on the actual PDF. If the next version comes out as a completely new PDF, I’ll have to go through it line by line to compare the differences.

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I would highly recommend finding a better method of updating that mentions or highlights the updates/revisions.

What I’d really like to see is an online version that is sort-able based on specific parameters. For example, you could select checkboxes that pertain to your specific situation (sex, age, flight experience, etc.), and it will return a list of scholarships that could be available to you. And possibly even notify you by email once a new scholarship is added that meets your unique criteria.

But for now, I’d be happy if they just worked on improving the current guide and focusing on accuracy.

The Verdict: Buy the guide at a discount if you’re not up for doing some research on scholarships yourself. If you do buy it though, be prepared for a number of broken links or missing information. I’m hoping they’ll start keeping a closer eye on future versions as this could be a very useful tool.

Initial Impressions: Shinola iPhone Leather Case

 
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I'm a huge fan of the Apple leather case for the iPhone but it seems they only have a two year life cycle in them. Probably because most iPhone owners upgrade at least every two years. That's my own completely unscientific study by the way.

I just mention it because both my wife's phone and my own have had an Apple leather case on them and one of the corners (on both) have failed in a way that leaves the phone unprotected. And my iPhone now has a scar to prove it after a pretty decent drop.

While on the hunt for a new case, I found one from Shinola that looked interesting and the coupon they recently sent me sealed the deal.

I ordered the case in Bourbon and straight out of the box I could tell how different it was from the Apple leather case that I'm used to. The Shinola case uses harness leather while the Apple leather case is made out of something much softer.

But let me first mention the packaging. Unboxing the case instantly made me want to order more from Shinola. Outstanding presentation.

It is worth mentioning that I'm a Foundry member and I don’t know if that influences packaging.

Interesting Things to Note

There's no lip around the sides of the phone so you can't set the phone down without resting it on the screen. While I’m worried about scratches, the screens on these phones are generally built to be super tough. I also can’t deny how nice it feels to not feel that lip on the edge. We’ll see if it becomes an issue in the future.

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The top and bottom of the case are cut in such a style that makes me feel as if they’re too exposed. I’m not sure if it’s purely a style choice or not but a case should first and foremost be fully functional as a case. These specific top and bottom cutouts leave some of the phone unprotected.

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The rubber sides provide excellent grip. Much better than the Apple Leather case. Even for a Plus sized phone, it’s quite easy to hold in the hand.

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Overall I was happy with the case but just as I was going to post these initial thoughts, my phone took a few tumbles and the case is now cracked in three different places. This is very disappointing and I’m now back on the hunt for a new case. I also emailed Shinola about the cracks and I’m interested to see their response, especially since they say this about the case: “The minimal, sturdy design will protect your phone for years to come - or at least until you upgrade to the next iPhone.“ Well, for me, the case only lasted less than a month. It sounds like this will get sent back in the mail and I’ll dust off the old Apple Leather case until I find a replacement.

 
 

Update 01: Shinola sent a replacement case. So far so good! Though I haven’t dropped my phone yet.

Update 02: The phone took a 2-3 foot drop from my nightstand this morning and the replacement case is now completely unusable. I emailed Shinola again and hope to get a refund.

 
 

Initial Impressions: Studio Neat Mark One

 
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The Studio Neat Mark One is a lightweight, minimal pen, fully constructed from metal, even including the custom click mechanism. It’s also quite versatile because it accepts any Parker-style refill. The Mark One ships with the Schmidt P8126 rollerball but I just switched out mine for the Schmidt easyFlow 9000 M. Both are great cartridges but I’m more used to the easyFlow.

The Mark One has been in my possession for only about a week now but I’ve used it enough that I feel I can offer a brief review. Spoiler alert: It’s a fantastic pen.

What I Like

  • It’s extremely simple yet sophisticated.

  • Aesthetically, the Mark One is right up my alley. This is a personal preference but they do have other styles available that may interest you as well.

  • It’s lightweight but doesn’t feel cheap. In fact, in the hand, it has the balance of a much heavier pen.

What I Don’t Like

  • The click mechanism sometimes gets stuck.*

  • While the click is substantial, I wish it didn’t feel so gritty.*

  • Rattling can be heard when the pen is shook.

*See update below.

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I’m no stranger to the interior of my pants pockets getting stained from a retractable pen, as I like to carry pen and paper on me at all times. But I didn’t account for how free flowing the ink was from the Mark One’s included Schmidt cartridge. Even though I got myself a pretty decent stain, I was able to get rid of most of it because I acted super quickly. This was 100% user error, but I mention it as a word of warning in case you were thinking of carrying the Mark One in your pocket too.

An Every Day Pen

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Even though I won’t be carrying the pen in my pocket anymore, I plan to use the Mark One daily and I’m very interested to see how it breaks in and wears over time. My bet is that the click mechanism should smooth up a bit with more use too.

Overall, the Mark One is a great pen and I’m sure I’ll be using it for years to come.

As just one note on how I would improve the Mark One, I’d like to see a small counterweight added to the internals that would keep the pen from rolling freely on a desk. I feel like they addressed this somewhere but I can’t remember where or what their response was.

 

 

Update: Dan from Studio Neat sent me a replacement Mark One and I’m happy to report that the click doesn’t feel gritty at all and the pen has yet to get stuck when clicked. I guess that first pen was a lemon. Anyways, I’ll keep testing things and will update this post with any new findings.

A Brief Review of GentScents

 
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I'm a sucker for a free trial and I'm also pretty good about canceling them in time to keep from getting billed, so I'm not too scared to try out new things. Except for that one time in college that I forgot to cancel the free Gevalia subscription. They got me pretty good.

Anyway, one of my latest trials was found through an Instagram ad for GentScents. The short version is that GentScents is a car air freshener that both smells better and is easier on the eyes than the standard tree-shaped or plastic vent clip air freshener. 

If you want to try it out, all you have to do is pay shipping and they'll send one on its way. So, for $3.21, I had one for myself.

Note: I received this back in November of 2017 and it's showing signs of being nearly completely dried out. I should pitch it but if I remove it from the holder and hold it up to my nose, I can still get a little bit of the scent and it's one I really do like. But since I just took pics of it yesterday, it looks a bit dry and old and I wanted to explain why. Come to think of it, I wonder if I'm just smelling the cedar and not the scent...

The block of wood comes in a plastic bag with specific instructions on how to handle it so you avoid getting the oils all over your fingers or the car, but it's relatively straightforward. 

The scent was good but didn't last long. They know this and they say they're working on getting more life out of each block but again, I'm happy to try it out for a few dollars. 

Since keeping an air freshener subscription in my budget was not something I was interested in, I quickly started the cancellation process. Their FAQ says:

IS IT EASY TO CANCEL?
Sure thing. You might question your life choices after, but all you have to do is log in to your account to cancel. 

But when you log in, there's no sign of being able to cancel.

I ended up having to send an email requesting my account be closed and two days later, I received an email back, signed by the founder. I'm almost certain it's just a canned email because it doesn't actually come from an email address that specifically matched the founder but you never know. And I get what they're going for, making it feel more personal and all.

Hey Mike,

I'm sorry to see you go. You're order has been cancelled. We'd love to get your feedback since we are just starting up.

Thanks,
Christian
co-founder

In fact, even though I thought for sure it was canned, I assumed that if I sent some honest feedback, then the founder would follow-up with an actual reply. 

Long story short, I sent my reply but never heard back, so I'm pasting it here. 

A couple things I'd recommend looking into/changing is the account creation process and cancellation process. 

I signed up through Instagram for the free trial (which was easy enough, so good job there), but when it came time to check my subscription on the website, I didn't realize that an account wasn't created for me. Luckily I figured out that I could request my password be reset (or something, I actually can't remember at the moment).

When I finally was able to log in, finding out how to cancel was unclear. I know that by nature, you don't want to make it easy for people to cancel but trust me, you'll be much better off if you streamline the process. Customers won't feel locked in like some kind of gym membership they've had for years because there's too many hoops to jump through.

Plus, when you make it easy for people to leave, you get rid of the wishy washy customers and the freeloaders and you're left with the most loyal ones. 

Anyway, that's it in a nutshell. Really did like the scent I got though. Fantastic. Reminded me of my hiking and camping trips to Colorado for some reason.

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I don't think it's worth the money unless the scent is stronger and longer lasting. And even then, how often does the average air freshener user buy new scents? Maybe it's just not for me.

Wilderness Collective Review: Sequoia to Yosemite

 

Psst. If you're looking for a 10% discount, hit me up.

More and more I've been choosing experiences over material things and lately I feel completely confident that I’ve made the correct decision in thinking this way.

Since watching the first videos of the Wilderness Collective's motorcycle trips, I knew I wanted to do one but it always seemed a bit out of reach financially, even if it's sort of a bucket list type of trip for me.

Side note: I don’t really like the term “bucket list” but I don’t have an alternative at the moment.

Long story short, the Wilderness Collective Sequioa to Yosemite Dual Sport Motorcycle Tour called to me and on September 29, 2015, I answered the call and booked my trip. The best part is, I pulled the trigger during their Kickstarter campaign and got the trip for $1,000 off. Way too good to pass up.

Let me offer a spoiler though as you’re probably about to ask me, “is it worth the money?” and I have to say, yes, it most certainly worth it. But remember, I'm a believer that experiences are worth more than “things." This trip is truly something to experience.

Look, if you're used to roughin' it on your own with some ultralight cuben fiber stuff sacks and eating dehydrated beans while hitchhiking on the cheap, this trip just may not be for you. But what this trip provides is so much more than that. Stop wasting your time planning potential routes, leave your camera behind (they have a professional photographer and videographer riding along), and don't even think of packing your titanium spork for meals. Did I mention they've brought in some of the best chefs of the LA area (at least on my trip) to cook breakfast lunch and dinner for you?

Being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment isn't something I'm used to doing. I usually sit on the planning end of things and I never get to be treated like the "guest" or "client" and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Their spartan but top quality crew handled everything that needed handling and left the riding to us riders without being weighed down by the minutiae of the day to day.

I planned on on this review being a lot longer than it currently is but I'm going to end things early. I even planned on breaking down the cost of the motorcycle rental, insurance, gas, maintenance costs, spare parts, use of the Icon Variant helmetElsinore boots, and body armor, or the Icon gloves, backpack, and hydration bladder you get to keep, or the use of the Poler tentsSnow Peak chairsprofessional photographer, and chef but I've simply decided to ask if you would take my word for it when I say this trip is worth it.

At the end of the day, you'll know if this trip is for you and nothing I can say will sway you in either direction.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Tips for Riding BoltBus


Photo by Flickr user btrandolph
A couple weeks back I had to head up to New York City for an overnighter. Not wanting to deal with traffic, gas prices, and parking, I opted for one of the bus services that run between Washington, DC and NYC. I wasn't sure which one to go with but after a little research I decided on BoltBus. They seemed to have some of the best reviews and a decent track record.

Note: The Washington Post did a great comparison on the bus lines that run from DC to NYC. It's worth a look if you are interested. 

The bus was by far the simplest and cheapest way to get from Washington, DC to New York City. My tickets came to $28 round trip. A ride where I can sleep the whole way, read on my Kindle, or just have room to stretch out is well worth that cost. But like the other bus services, BoltBus offers a decent list of features.


  • Wi-Fi
  • Extra Legroom
  • Electrical Outlets
  • $1 Fares (if you book far enough in advance)
  • Boarding Groups
  • Reserved Seating


Wi-Fi

Ok, so they seemingly offer a lot but is it really worth it? Most of this stuff is just icing on the cake. The real deal is that you get to sit back and relax for four and a half hours instead of fiddling with the cruise control. I'll break down a few of the features a little bit more though.

The on board Wi-Fi is so slow and can be so finicky that it's virtually nonexistent. Depending on your device, it may take a few tries to connect to it and once you do, you're best if you limit your Internet surfing to a minimum. Since it's an open network, security is important. And due to the low speed, don't count on video chatting with a friend or watching YouTube.

Although the Wi-Fi speed depends on a number of factors, in my two simple tests it was slower than 3G on my iPhone.

Seating

The on board electrical outlets are handy but there's only one outlet for two seats to share. Granted both of you can plug in one gizmo each, it's going to be sort of in the way for one of you with the cord dangling by your feet. Also, the slots feel very loose and my iPhone charger wouldn't stay in without falling out.

It's hard not to compare the seat layout with that of an airliner because they are essentially the same thing; mass people carriers. With that in mind, there are two things to note:

  • There is also no flexible little pocket in the seat back. So keeping a magazine or water bottle handy isn't super easy.
  • There are no tray tables so you'll have to set your tablet or laptop directly on your lap if you decided to use them. 
  • The spot for a bag under your feet is slightly limited in size by the fold down foot rest. On an airplane, you can fit a full backpack under the seat in front of you and still have some room but not so much on the bus.
Those aren't huge things but certainly something that feels awkward if you are used to flying. 

At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with taking the bus. I'm sure there are some horror stories of broken air conditioners, mechanical troubles and flat tires but the reward of getting to sit there doing nothing (or even working on your computer) is worth it if pick a reputable bus service. 

If you want my advice, here it is:
  • Book as early as possible. You'll get to board first and have your pick of seats. I like being near the front so I can see the road ahead and it also keeps me away from the noise and/or smell of the bathroom. 
  • Regarding your carry on, pack light. The overhead bin is not as large as an airliners and the spot under the seat in front of you is a lot smaller. 
  • Don't count on Wi-Fi. Pack a few magazines, book, Kindle... something pre-loaded with reading material or games to keep you distracted. Wi-Fi is a bonus, not a guaranteed feature.
  • If you know you aren't going to use the electrical outlet, it may be best to grab the window seat so the cable from your seat mate's iPad doesn't get caught under your feet. 
Have you tried BoltBus or a similar service before? What was your experience?