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.
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.
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?
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.