links for 2007-01-23

links for 2007-01-20

Pile O’ Tips

I’ve been meaning to write up each and every one of these tips for weeks now, but I’ll never get around to fully fleshing them out so instead here’s a bunch of things I’ve learned over the past few months that might help you as well:

  • When picking people up curbside at the airport, tell your friends/family to meet you in departures, not arrivals. Especially on weekends and holidays, the arrivals area at most major airports will back up ridiculously as people hog the lanes and wait for people. A couple days before Christmas, we landed and I went out to fetch the car and pick up the rest of the family, but had to wait in a 15min long line to pick them up. The departures area was dead. I used this tip on Saturday and it worked great, as there were no lines and no waiting.
  • Last year I finally started joining frequent flier programs and when I noticed I was renting cars often, I decided to go with Hertz, and I went beyond the normal program and paid $50/year for the Gold membership. It’s the best money I ever spent. Now when I arrive at a destination, I just walk over to hertz, note my name and parking location on a big lighted board and walk up to my awaiting car and drive off. It literally saves 30-40 minutes of lines, waiting, and more lines every time I use it. For someone that rents cars often, it’s totally worth the $4 and change per month.
  • When you travel with a baby, it helps to have an extra room in your hotel so you can have some separation of space and your child won’t see you and want to be picked up at 3am. It’s not always feasible to get a hotel suite, but I’ve found a real bargain in Embassy Suites. It’s pretty much an average Holiday Inn style room, but it’s about 15ft longer, giving you a living room area in front of the bedroom complete with desks and sofas. We put the baby’s crib in there, and could put her to bed early and still read, talk, or watch TV in the other room while she slept. Plus, we could let her wake up slowly in her own room. Bonus points for this hotel giving a free breakfast buffet for two with every room. The price isn’t much higher than a typical business travel hotel and works wonders for a traveling family.
  • If you give presentations, please drop everything and read Beyond Bullet Points. It is written by someone that worked at Microsoft but hates the standard Powerpoint defaults. He teaches you basic story structure from theater and has a great system for creating dramatic presentations. I read this book and used the lessons to give a talk last year and it was my best talk ever. I got loads of compliments from the audience and I felt really confident and prepared going in (reading them online without any context leaves a lot to be desired but you can probably get the gist of it).

Apple is the new NASA

When I was a kid, the future was filled with optimism. The year 2000 was 10-20 years away and it was this magical goal we were working towards. I was obsessed with astronauts, especially those in NASA that got to ride in the space shuttle. While I never made it to spacecamp, I envied the kids that did.

Then the shuttle blew up, the year 2000 passed without flying cars, and 9/11 sparked another world war. Leaders talked about the past, not the future. Optimism was dead.

I never stopped looking for that optimistic future. It’s something every tech nerd craves and I think that’s why we got into the technology field to start with: to make the world better. Anyway, today I realized why I transformed from longtime skeptic of Apple computer to total fanboy in the past three years.

Apple creates technology that makes things better. Portable music, wireless networking, laptops, photos on your digital camera, video on your camcorder, movies on your TV, and now the dreaded cellphone. These are all things that have been a hassle for some time.

I don’t know a single person that likes the phone they have. Everyone feels like a victim of both their phone plan and their phone hardware. Cellphones seem to be one of those things that barely works given all the drawbacks. The iPhone isn’t just a new gadget. It looks like something that will transform the way we think about cellphones.

Today I realized the feeling of optimism that I held dear when I was a kid — that everything was going to work out and be better for everyone when I got older — isn’t captured by the folks at NASA anymore. It’s the people at Apple that provide that.

Heifer International

I’ve long been a fan of Heifer International and suggested it to others as a charity, but I never read the small print. Philip Greenspun and Michael Stillwell did and both noticed their marketing is fairly misleading — you’re not really buying a water buffalo or a cow, but simply contributing to a general fund that someday may result in animals getting to families. It’s not entirely dishonest but it sure feels like something different than what their site describes when you give money.