Chai Digest September 29-October 5: Wear black in heat, and happily kidnapped in the Sinai

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Why do people in hot climates wear black clothes? Ahead of this year’s Ig Nobel Prices, the Guardian’s Science Weekly podcast (interview starts at 41:38) looked at prior winners, including work on why black clothes are so popular in extremely hot climates. A study found that color of clothes does not make a difference in terms of heating and cooling, so go ahead, pack black. The likeliest explanation is that dark clothes don’t show the dirt as easily as white.

Kayak founder Paul English’s approach to customer service and rapid improvements to the website? He and the engineers have to take the calls. Engineers fix the problems immediately to avoid continued calls.

Jason Around the World has an excellent series on Haiti that I used in planning my last-minute trip there this weekend (parts 1, 2 and 3):

…having learnt that basically what the media shows is maybe 2% of the real story, well, I was definitely interested in getting a bit more of the real story about Haïti for myself. To hear them tell it, Haïti is miles upon miles of never ending tent cities with people dying of cholera left and right. There are giant fissures in the ground from the Earthquake, and nothing resembling normality exists. Is it true? I had to see for myself.

A site new to me, The Velvet Rocket, has a photo essay on Grand Cimetière de Port-au-Prince (warning: some pictures may be disturbing), that will start my Sunday walk.

Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals since 1985, new study says. Not a headline I wanted to see.

The Atlantic’s Dispatches have been travel gold this month. Tea and Kidnapping explores Bedouin hospitality in tourist kidnappings in the Sinai Peninsula:

The sheikh’s brother Mohammed, a wiry drug runner, nodded vigorously: “Tourists come to Egypt and pay for this kind of experience,” he said, beaming. “Now they are getting the same thing for free!”

Swamped! is a humorous take on the near-inability for Tuvalu government to spend time on governing due to an endless parade of engagements related to climate warming risk of submerging the country:

“Suddenly you realize there is no government!” he said with a laugh. “There was a time a few weeks ago when there was not a single member of the government here. Not one.”

China Built the Worst Online Ticket System in the World—for $52 Million continues the saga of the Ministry of Railways’ many failed attempts at online ticket sales. Train tickets during holiday periods are nearly a matter of life and death, the poor migrant workers needing them most always the losers in each new online and offline system rolled out. I have spent quite a many hours in those ticket lines, spent nights on trains with no seat, and battled some of their earlier online attempts. Yet this is not the outlier, very few websites in China, from public or private companies, function without frequent errors. And don’t even try to use most of them without an old version of Internet Explorer.

For tourists to China, train tickets are one area where a travel agent is the least hassle to secure popular tickets. Keep in mind that while everything varies by station and route, most cannot be booked more than a week or two in advance, which is part and parcel of the crush in the final days before holidays.

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