Sun schedules the Analyst Summit and the Worldwide Education and Research Conference in the same week in San Francisco, which works well, because it lets those of who pitch in at both (which is basically everyone outward-facing) save on travel and transit. But combine that with some real interesting engineering discussions and some VIP visitors and, well, there go three days.


A blurry, grainy, glass-and-haze obscured aerial of the place they call “Fogtown”

Anyhow, thanks to the people who organized the events—beautifully done, come if you get a chance—and to everyone who took the time to talk to me—I have mountains of notes—and sorry to anyone who wanted to when unfortunately I had to go to the next meeting.

Van · Bloody Avis rented me a Toyota Sienna NotSoMiniVan for some reason, and I stupidly scheduled meetings in such a way that I took three separate round-trips between the Valley and the City; burned like $70 of gas in 72 hours going up and down 101; the thing’s woofer was apparently stolen from a U2 gig and I think I may have spleen damage.

Which reminds me, back in September I wrote about van shopping and got like 100 emails with van opinions—pity the commenting wasn’t working then—and ended up getting the safe boring predictable Honda. Now I know that the Sienna would have been peppier, but its gearshift is an Industrial-Design disaster while the Honda’s is a poem, so there.

Pacific Northwest clouds

Airlines and Inflation · I so hate Aeroplan, Air Canada’s frequent-flyer program. I have many hundreds of thousands of points, but in recent years it became increasingly impossible to use them. Tickets to attractive warm destinations? Hah hah hah hah. Then it got so I couldn’t even fly our parents down from Saskatchewan. Either they were slowly winching down the number of available seats or there were people who’d figured out how to game the system and scoop them all out.

As several economists have pointed out, there’s an immense oversupply of frequent-flyer points, so inflation is inevitable. And Air Canada has taken it to the max. Now, they advertise, they have “every seat, every flight”. Except for, they offer those seats at many times the number of points they used to cost. They talk about “classic reward seats” at the old point prices, but those are never available to anywhere that I want to go to. I thought inflation was when prices inched up slowly and steadily, but in this case it’s more like the inflationary hypotheses on the instants surrounding the big bang. The effect is the same: my hundreds of thousands of points can’t take my family on vacation. I hate ’em; when I drop by their web-site for yet another futile attempt to cash in points, I can literally feel the hate curdling my stomach.

The actual flight service seems to be getting a little better though; there are quite a few of the new A319’s with video screens and nice 110-volt power plugs.

Oh right, another reason to hate Aeroplan: their “partner” United has summarily downgraded all us Air Canada frequent flyers so we can no longer get in the economy-plus seats without paying (more inflation), or board early. I was informed of this in a tone of hateful triumph by a United employee in SFO. Did I say I hate ’em?

Pacific Northwest clouds

The government’s economic read-outs show flat inflation, basically; it’s weird, then, that I end up paying more for so many things than I used to. It’s painfully obvious that businesses have found a zillion ways to game the numbers, to get more money out of you without actually raising the nominal “price” of anything.

Coda · There are compensations: the people at the meetings (Sun has the coolest customers) and what you see out of airplane windows.

But I’m sitting on the plane back to Vancouver with many separate emails whimpering “Please deal with me now”, and lots of things written but un-posted, and I hear it’s cold and rainy at home just like in California, bah, and the baby’s got a cold and isn’t sleeping well. Really, I do love this business. Most times, anyhow.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: walter (Feb 09 2007, at 00:35)

tim. you should go through a travel agent to redeem your points. they can do wonders. last year i flew my wife to scotland... i booke in Jan for a May trip, and it was nay problem. hen i booked a fligt to venice.... again through the travel agent. this time my Points were NOT deducted. So i flew for free ie no points were lost. cool!


From: Tom Dyson (Feb 09 2007, at 05:38)

All these flights... did news of the fourth IPCC report make it to Canada? In brief, according to 600 scientists from 113 governments: global warming is real, is caused by human emissions, and will have catastrophic consequences in this century - your childrens' lifetimes. In the shorter term, the deaths of millions in Ethiopia and Bangladesh by drought and flooding look very likely.

Solving this problem is the most important task for this generation, or perhaps any generation. Leaders - like you, with your popular blog - need to encourage by example. Our industry is better-placed than any other to mitigate the massive damage caused by flying around the world, but we continue to encourage international conferences and business travel. There are aspects of human relationships which can only work when all parties are in the same physical space, and those aspects may be important to building communities around programming languages or web standards, but they're not worth the lives of Bangladeshis, are they?

I'm sorry to sound so portentous. I don't think there's another wawy of saying it.


From: Evan (Feb 10 2007, at 14:46)

OK, that makes sense, but frankly, people need to travel. Coming from the America mid-west, I've come to think that the very reason that the plight of the people who are most threatened by global warming is nearly invisible is that those people cannot even be conceptualized by people who've never met them. I don't get to travel a lot, but when I have, I've found that there is very little as broadening as traveling to somewhere foreign and really learning the place. So I'm torn on when I hear people being down on air travel. I know how bad it is, but at the same time quick transit in between nations seems vital, to me at least, to fostering good international knowledge and relationships. I suppose what I'm really wondering is: where are the green planes?


From: Mark (Feb 10 2007, at 21:49)

Regarding the U.N. report on global warming. If the U.N. concluded human emissions are the cause of global warming on Earth, what do these scientists believe the cause of global warming on Mars, Pluto, and possibly Saturn and Neptune is? Temperatures on Mars and Pluto are increasing. Saturn's south pole, and one of Neptune's moons appears to be warming. The Sun is at a 1,000 year peak in its brightness cycle. Is all of this extraterrestrial warming just a coincidence?

Is the Earth getting warmer? Yes. Does the solar cycle explain all of the change? No. Do human emissions contribute to climate change? Likely. Do we know how much of the Earth's climate change is caused by human emissions? No. Should we panic? Absolutely not.

Only 30 years ago fear of an impending ice age caused some reputable scientists to suggest we spread black silt on the polar ice caps to warm them. Imagine if we had what the implications in today's warmer environment might have been.

We need to be reasonable, make adjustments where we can, and study the situation more. Technology, combined with market economics, often provides its own answer. Compact fluorescent bulbs are much cheaper than they were several years ago. Along with rising energy costs, they are more cost effective now than incandescent bulbs. Technology and market economics won. LED lighting is about to blow away anything fluorescent can do. Hybrid automobiles have done what electric vehicles could not: overcome the economic and market disadvantages of electric vehicles. Technology and market economics win. How much power is being saved by people using laptops rather than traditional desktop PCs? How much by LCD monitors? Technology and market economics win.

As for flying to places, flying as one of many passengers in a large passenger jet is quite efficient. Just stay on the commercial airlines and out of the Gulfstream V's. Of course, French and Japanese electric trains powered by nuclear generated electricity are the ultimate zero emissions transportation.

And keep pushing power-efficient computing. Especially in the developing world, where power is scarce to begin with. While every kilowatt saved in California might prevent a rolling blackout, every kilowatt saved in India and China means fewer coal-fired electric plants. Technology and market economics win.


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February 08, 2007
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