Our Trip to Japan

Haven’t posted for a week since Michelle, the kids and I headed to Japan for a week’s vacation (and a little time spent with Michelle doing some trend-spotting and the three of us helping her by taking photos).

If you’d care to peek at a brief blog I put together on our trip (and had password protected while we were out of the country so only family and friends could see it — and so I wasn’t screaming to the world we were out of the country though we had a housesitter) go to the Our Trip to Japan” blog. (UPDATE 1/2011: This has been offline since I shifted from Typepad to a self-hosted WordPress blog last year).

There are only 10 posts so you can start at the bottom and quickly work your way up. There are some fun pictures that will give you a flavor for Tokyo.

Hey…I thought the world was getting in sync?

In a couple of weeks I’ll be on a 12 hour flight to Tokyo. My Powerbook gets less than three hours on a charge (my work-issued Thinkpad four and a half) so I checked with Northwest Airlines on seat power. None. Wifi? None. Guess I’d better buy another battery. My iPod also won’t last very long so I may be forced to read my book without tunes.

Then I checked with my two mobile telephony providers (TMobile for personal and Cingular for work) to see if either Blackberry would have service. Voice? None for either since Japan is on an incompatible, 3G system. Email? Yes…but limited.

My Nikon D70 will work fine and batteries, Compact Flash cards and more will be generally available. Same for miniDV and my Sony camcorder batteries should I need any for these two devices. Discovered today, though, that Wifi in our hotel will be US$25 per day to connect to the ‘net. So I poked around and TMobile hotspots in Starbucks there have a US$0.12 per minute surcharge. What?

So the world isn’t in sync on standards and travel with all these tech devices isn’t easy and seamless yet. But when my Dad and I took our trip to Germany in 1997 to see where my ancestors came from (his first international trip), he was absolutely amazed that we would be in Germany in 8 hours…and it took them one month to travel from Germany to Minnesota. On that trip the ‘net was new and I was standing in phone booths with an acoustic coupler modem most nights since I was building a web site on the fly.

Oh poor Steve. No non-stop power for his laptop. A whole 12 hours to Tokyo. Semi-ubiquitous and fairly affordable connection to a worldwide network for pennies. I’ll stop my whining now.

Perspective goes to both the victor and the vanquished

History is written by the victors,” said Winston Churchill. Sad but true. Growing up playing cowboys and indians, watching TV and movie westerns, and being taught about the tragedy of Custer’s Last Stand, gave me a perspective that has taken me decades to balance and learn about the perspective of the other side…the vanquished native American.

Today’s experience at the Crazy Horse monument was interesting on many fronts: it’s a grander, larger and more magnificent monument than Mt. Rushmore but is many, many decades away from completion. The native people I spoke with today clearly have the perspective that their leaders were as equally great as the men who founded and enhanced our nation.

In the bookstore at the monument were several books about yesterday’s post regarding the massacre at Wounded Knee. All the titles were ones like, “The Massacre at Wounded Knee. Stories from native survivors” or “Wounded Knee: History from our Perspective.” I picked them up and skimmed them all. It was much different than what I’d been taught as a kid and has provided me with a profound realization that “the battle” as it’s been characterized truly was uncalled for and was genocide.

One other thing happened today that was pretty profound and added to my pondering about things that had occurred not all that long ago. It was my son and I driving through Custer State Park and detouring down “the Wildlife Loop”. We saw wild turkey’s, antelope, mountain goats and bison.

The bison! We were driving down the loop (which was right out of Dances with Wolves) when we came over a rise and there — on each side of the road and *on* the road — were 150 or so bison. Huge ones like the guy at the left as well as scraggly looking oldsters, females and what looked like yearlings. I shut off the engine, put the car in neutral, and we sloooowly glided to a stop right in the middle of the herd.

We sat there with the windows rolled down, took pictures, listened and looked. What magnificent creatures. Again, this experience was tinged by the sadness of the slaughter of tens of millions of these animals that once roamed the plains and these Black Hills freely. Now only a few hundred thousand remain.

Two cars and a couple on a loud Harley came over the rise back in the distance and stopped. My son asked a few minutes later, “Dad…are the bison passing gas?” Chuckling I said, “Nope. They’re snorting and I think they’re warning each other.” Sure enough, the snorting grew louder and you could see the herd start to become visibly agitated as they milled about. The cars and motorcycle grew closer (I started my engine and slowly moved forward) and the herd began to shift and move off the road until we’d all passed by.

Curiously, the victors over the bison barely mention the 60 million number (of bison that once roamed North America) and the reasons behind this mass killing. Though I’m a fan of the old West and a bit of a history buff, I learned this approximation of the number of bison when I was about 35 years old — nothing in school was said. Of course, bison can’t write books or carve mountain monuments so their perspective isn’t available.

Thinking about how it was…at Mt. Rushmore

When my son’s spring break “Dad & Son Adventure” to Orlando’s Universal Studios didn’t work out (flights home were booked), I asked him where he wanted to go. “How about Hawaii Dad?” “Ahh…we’ve got three days pal.”  To my surprise he asked, “OK. How about Mt. Rushmore? I’ve never seen it.”

Neither had I. So here we are in surprisingly warm Rapid City, SD (76 degrees today).

We’re staying in an old historic hotel downtown (with free wireless internet and a lot of character) and we just got done talking about our next two days here. We’re going to the Mammoth Site, Custer State Park, Jewel Cave and a bunch of other attractions (oh yeah, and Mt. Rushmore).

We also talked about how it was before Mt. Rushmore, Rapid City and the interstate. 60 million bison roamed North America before they were killed for fun from the iron horse (train) as well as to remove the primary food source from the natives. The Sioux and other natives were living peacefully a couple of days horseback ride away from where we are right now (in Wounded Knee, SD).

Not all was well in this part of the West. Seems the Sioux were performing a “ghost dance” to bring snow (and cover the white man) as well as protecting them from the calvary soldier’s bullets. Settlers were quite afraid and called in the calvary. The result was a single shot during a sitdown that gave the soldiers justification for a horrific massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 and the last “official battle in the Indian wars”.

Much has changed. Much stays the same.

Now a conference about the upcoming revolution in air travel…

Back on December 19th I posted “Get Ready for a Revolution in Air Travel” and I discover today — reading Esther Dyson’s site called “Release 1.0” — that there is an offshoot of her famous PC Forum event called “Flight School.”

In the description Esther opines: “…the premise (is) that the aerospace industry is about to undergo changes as dramatic as the transitions from mainframes to PCs and from the science/R&D/military Internet to today’s vibrant, commercial, vulgar World Wide Web. And like Net entrepreneurs, those in the new world of flight will meet resistance from the old guard: Read legacy airlines for mainframes and discount carriers for the minis. Air taxis will be to the aviation old guard what PCs are to mainframes. And space tourism will appall the purists of old just as e-commerce annoys the scientists.

The early part of the last century found transportation dependent businesses locating near railroad track sidings so as to be able to receive materials and ship goods from one point to their point. Then the acceleration of the trucking industry enabled point-to-multipoint shipping and receiving — for all but the largest and heaviest goods — thus enabling these same types of businesses to locate anywhere. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that midway through that century an interstate highway system achieved critical mass).

Just like the shift from trains to trucking or the ongoing struggle of the use of personal automobiles vs. relatively point-to-point mass transit, multipoint-to-multipoint air taxi’s will clearly match pent-up-demand for flexible long distance travel and shipping with an dynamic infrastructure. As I said in my earlier blog post, air taxi’s will function somewhat like a packet switching internet network vs. a point-to-point circuit switching network like the plain old telephone system…and we all know what’s happening with THAT system as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) kills it!

Viva Las Vegas

I’ll be at a major computer vendor partner show in Las Vegas for a few days and I was reflecting on my first experiences there and how much it has changed.

I started going to Las Vegas about 25 years ago for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and a variety of other venues (and occasionally for fun). Did my fair share to keep the lights on by leaving money behind, but that was in my foolish days (my Grandpa once told me, “Steve…gambling is a tax on the stupid”).

Just like watching your kids grow up, it’s pretty amazing how the passage of time, growth, death and rebirth is almost imperceptible as time marches by. Just thinking on the LV of 25 years ago vs. today is stunning.

When I began going there, LV was still in an afterglow of the time when the Rat Pack, Mafia and unseemly behavior was the norm instead of today’s more family and couple orientation. CES was huge and occurred twice per year since there were tons of Ma & Pa retailers selling electronics, along with many local and regional chains. Now it’s Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart and Target so having two huge shows a year is overkill since there are fewer buyers. CES is now once a year and much smaller.

Comdex (the Computer Distribution Expo) was ENORMOUS with 130,000+ attendees at its peak and, at one point, filled something like 9 buildings. Due to problems in the industry and retail consolidation (Best Buy, Circuit City et al), Comdex was skipped in 2004 and may not be back.

Las Vegas has sure changed. On this page of photos, virtually none of these properties had been built 25 years ago. Yikes.

One constant though…Elvis is still there.

Get ready for a revolution in air travel

dsc_1332Sitting next to a guy last week as I flew back from California, I struck up a conversation with him and ended up talking about jet travel, small seats (and the increasing size of our aging posteriors) and I mentioned microjets. He perked up and we talked about something I’ve been aware of for some time: we’re less than two years away from the beginnings of a revolution in jet air travel.

Over the next few years, a number of companies (list at bottom of page) will be shipping relatively inexpensive (~$1M-$2.5M) small 4-6 seat jets that can utilize approximately 3,400 small airports (out of over 5,000) that exist in the U.S.!

Imagine being able to sign up on the internet, tell the system where you want to go, and have a small jet pick you up at one of these small airports and drop you at another one close to your destination. No more long lines, parking hassles, or groping by some giddy TSA employee.

The promise is there but there’s more work to do.

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