Entertainment Update

I’ve finished reading Phil Jackson’s The Last Season, and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. I’ve also finished a bunch of Sudoku puzzles in Brain Age. I haven’t used my MP3 player yet, but I have been keeping up on the day’s news with my phone. The question now is: Charles Petzold’s Code or Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down?

Greetings from NC

I’m currently sitting in the food court here at the Charlotte airport. It gets high marks from me for having a wide variety of choices and great service. The flight here, however, was extremely uncomfortable because I was stuck in between the stereotypical two obese dudes. Unpleasant. Thank heavens the flight was only a little over an hour. Thankfully the rest o the way I have aisle seats.

One other thing that struck me as strange is that it’s 90 degrees outside here, but hardly anyone is wearing shorts. WTF? I suspect I am sticking out like a sore thumb now…

And now, the waiting begins…

I’m currently sitting in a random departure lounge at Baltimore Washington International Airport, staring down a four and a half hour wait before my next flight. I am somewhat tempted to see if I can hop on an earlier flight, but I worry that doing so would mess up my carefully calculated mileage run. Oh well. Going to break out the DS for a little bit to give the battery on my phone some rest…

In the Baltimore airport

The City of Brotherly Love

So I’m here in Philadelphia after the redeye flight from Las Vegas. I was surprised — the flight looked to be completely full. I wonder how many people are headed straight to work after a 4-day weekend in Vegas…

BTW, final tally from Vegas is a $2 loss from playing Deuces Wild video poker. I couldn’t find blackjack on any of the machines there.

So I still have about an hour to kill before the next leg, to Baltimore. Maybe I’ll catch some breakfast, or at least a caffeinated beverage of some sort. I’m also going to rearrange my bag a little bit, as I may need to gate-check my bag on the next flight, and I want to carry any essentials on my person. (I flew on this type of aircraft, a Canadair regional jet, recently, and I did have to gate-check my bag then…)

Me in Philadelphia, after an overnight flight

Welcome to Las Vegas

I’m on the ground here in Las Vegas. No surprises here, since I’ve been here several times before. I’ve always come at peak times, though — it’s pretty quiet here now, which seems strange to me.

Anyway, what I wanted to comment on about SNA was that it was extremely hot in the terminal, even though I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt. As the sun goes down, it quickly heats the place up since there are tall windows that span the length of the terminal. I know Sandy had mentioned some kind of glass that dims when a current is applied — I wonder if the cost of running that would be recouped by the savings in HVAC costs.

Anyway, I have another 40 minutes to kill here, so I will walk around and try to find some way to amuse myself…

Me in the Las Vegas airport

My day of travel begins!

So I’m just about to head out to the airport to catch my first flight of my mileage run. I’ve got lots of entertainment packed with me, including my DS, my phone, my MP3 player, and books. I’ve already checked in online, and thankfully I was able to get aisle seats for most of my journey (including the all-important overnight leg). I prefer aisle seats because you can sneak a little bonus leg room by stretching out into the aisle — plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be awoken when the service carts go by, so you don’t miss out on any beverage service or stuff like that.

I’m going to try to write a blog entry at each airport, so we’ll see how this goes. I’d also like to take self-portraits in each airport, both as photographic proof that I’ve been to all these places, as well as documentation of me hitting the wall after being in airports all day. Not sure if I’ll be able to upload them on the road, though — the free FTP client I tried for Pocket PC appears to be kind of flaky…

Reading is fundamental

I have recently been reading a few books on business and entrepreneurship, with the goal of trying to determine if starting a business is something I’d be interested in exploring. In the past, I’ve browsed through various business books at the bookstore, but never really committed to reading one all the way through. Part of this is because many books I’ve flipped through rely too heavily on quoting other business writers (Jack Welch and Lou Gerstner are common), and plumbing the same well-worn collection of quotes from Bartlett’s interspersed at random intervals. I just don’t get the sense that the author is contributing thoughts and ideas of their own — rather, they’re just quilting a book as it were.

Rather than worry about possibly subsidizing poor business writing, I decided to just borrow some books that looked decent at the library. It’s amazing how liberating it can be to make choices like this when money is not a factor, and when my time is in relatively abundant supply.

The first book I read in this recent binge was Bruce Judson‘s Go It Alone!. The basic premise of the book is that the advances in communication and business in the Internet age have made it possible for individuals to carve out their own niches and construct successful businesses. This can be done because there is a lot of business functionality out there for sale on the Internet, which can be leveraged by a motivated individual to construct a profitable business. A good example of the types of software and services Judson talks about is WordPress, the free software behind this blog. WordPress is relatively easy to use, even for someone like me who’s been out of the loop with regards to Web software and technology for 7 years now. And, at the same time, it’s robust and scalable enough for companies like Ford to use it. For a prospective user, the only expenses would involve Web hosting and time spent learning to use the system.

The prevalence of open source software and services has really changed the landscape of the software industry — it’s now possible to construct software systems that can compete with almost anyone out there, without needing to have massive capital and hardware expenditures. Look at Google, perhaps the most famous example of this — their entire search business is based around commodity hardware, and clever ways of using it.

Unfortunately, Judson sometimes strays a little too close to the “trendy couple sipping Chardonnay in their living room” model lampooned by Joel Spolsky, where entrepreneurs simply string together off-the-shelf software components and sit on their sofa while the cash pours in. While he does stress that any new business venture has to have added value somewhere in its chain, the idea that custom software can fill this role receives short shrift in the book. As a matter of fact, there’s a passage in the book describing his experience with custom software as being very negative — his philosophy is, “wait 6-18 months, and you’ll be able to buy that functionality for pennies.” Personally, I think this does his readership a disservice by suggesting that it’s never a viable option. I’m sure that some of this is because of Judson’s background, but completely dismissing the idea of building a startup around custom software is short-sighted in my opinion.

As it turns out, you can actually read this book for free on his website, so give it a whirl if you’re curious. It’s a pretty quick read.

The other two books that I picked up have been less useful. Starting on a Shoestring is really focused on more capital-intensive businesses, about which I’m not really interested. It does present some interesting anecdotes about thrift, legal protection, and starting businesses almost entirely with other people’s money. Likewise, The Entrepreneur’s Information Sourcebook also focuses on more traditional business types. It’s more of a collection of pointers to more detailed information about topics related to starting a business, with very little authored content. I found the sections relating to legal aspects of a business and accounting to be useful, but most of the rest of it was either inapplicable to the kinds of things I would be interested in, or a rehash of things that I had learned from the other books.

I’m sure I’ll be reading some more on these topics in the future — after all, I have a long string of plane flights coming up soon, and a need to kill a lot of time sitting in airports. I’ll be making another visit to the library to get some fresh reading material…

When Good Captions Go Bad

There’s a BBC News story up about a contest-fixing scandal at the BBC. One of the contests whose results were changed regarded naming a cat who would be joining the cast of a children’s show. Vox populi demanded Cookie — they got Socks instead. The kids who voted for Cookie got a life lesson in politics, Chicago style.

This caption can currently be found midway through the article.

Cat name scandal caption