Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hopping off my Internet Island at the Holiday Inn Express

I've gotten spoiled these past three days with the reasonable and free Wi-Fi Internet access at the Holiday Inn Express Chelsea hotel on West 29th Street here in New York City. Every hotel has its own quirks in service or expense. I'll call them Internet islands. I'll be spending Thursday and Friday evening at The Roosevelt near Grand Central, but they charge $14.95 a day for wired high-speed Internet access. And that's a fancier hotel to boot. I would call that a relatively unfriendly Internet island. That seems to be the "model": low-end hotels attract people (especially road warrior business types) with free Internet access, while higher-end hotels charge excessive rates for inferior service.

In a few minutes I'll be hopping off of the Holiday Inn Express Internet island and hopping into unknown Internet territory at the Murray Hill East Suite Hotel on East 39th Street. I'll just be dropping off my "luggage" (backpack) and immediately head out for my typical walk up through Central Park and down through the Upper West Side. I don't have any idea what level of Internet service is available on the Murray Hill East Suite Internet island. If free, I'll go for it, otherwise I may take a mini Internet vacation over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. No great loss on such quiet days.

I may see The Good Shepard near Lincoln Square, but I cringe at the thought of blowing three hours of quality vacation time in the middle of a sunny 50-degree day in late December in New York City. Kind of a waste. I'll decide at the last minute whether to duck into the movie theatre or continue my wandering.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Weather in New York City not so bad now

The weather here in Manhattan seems to be clearing up a bit. The rain has stopped and the weather radar shows that the weather system has moved out of the area, with nothing behind it. It is heavy overcast and very humid, but workable for me to do my usual walk around lower Manhattan (29th Street and below).

I got lucky yesterday. There were a very few sprinkles during the day and mostly I simply carried my umbrella folded up. Only in the evening, sometime after I got back to my hotel at 5:30 p.m. did the steady rain start to come down. It made walking to dinner (at Novita, a Modern Italian restaurant, on 22nd just off Park Ave) a mess, but no big deal for such a short period of time outside. Besides, it gave the city a dark and sinister Blade Runner kind of mood. I noticed some "clubs" on 22nd with no names but people standing in line in the rain, some without umbrellas. People in New York are really serious about clubs.

The weather forecast shows sunshine at 3:00 p.m. and a high of 59. I'll have to take the polar fleece liner out of my coat, and may end up carrying my coat (really just a shell) part of the day. Yes, it really is late December in New York City.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Construction in New York City

After being gone for almost a year and a half, the change in New York City that I noticed can be best summarized in one word: construction. I am amazed at how many new buildings I see, as well as how many old buildings I no longer see and sites that are in the early stages of construction or site preparation. It feels like the numbers are significantly greater than during my last two years living in the city.

There are still plenty of older buildings in New York that are not in very good shape, so there is still a huge amount of potential for both renovation and rebuilding.

I even saw a new "sliver" building going up. They are the width of a narrow town house, but 15 or more stories tall. They were popular back in the 1970's and 1980's or so, but I had never seen a new one going up. Maybe that says something about how frenzied construction is getting in the city.

I saw the facade of an old stone church that was being preserved, but the entire rest of the church was already torn down and the site was being prepared for a new building that would integrate the old church facade.

-- Jack Krupansky

The Tree

I spent the day wandering all around lower Manhattan. That's what I typically do for a Saturday in New York, but I have been away from New York so long (since July 2005) and it may rain on Friday, I went ahead and did my walk anyway. Now, my feet are really tired since I haven't been doing these all-day walks recently. I'll give them a few more minutes of rest (I'm lucky that they always recover so quickly after such intensive use) and then I'll be off to the other really, really, really big priority for the day: The Tree. Or more specifically, going to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza. It is always very awesome.

Coming from Seattle, I just have to say that I am glad that New York City doesn't have a local Rabbi threatening to sue somebody for not putting up a giant Menorah next to the Christmas Tree. In America, a Christmas Tree is a cultural symbol which does not have purely religious connotations.

I would have gone to see The Tree when I got into the city last night, but I vaguely recall that they turn it off at midnight (like the Empire State Building). I think that is plain silly and counter to the spirit of New York. If I were mayor... I'd demand that both the Empire State Building and The Tree be fully lit all night long.

-- Jack Krupansky

Email blogging from the Holiday Inn Express in New York City

I was bummed out that I could not trivially post to this blog via email from my room at the Holiday Inn Express on West 29th Street in New York City on their free Wi-Fi service. The issue was that due to the implementation of "Port 25 blocking" by many ISPs, my outbound email has had to go through my ISP's SMTP email server, but that doesn't work from the HIE Wi-Fi network. It simply times out. I tried to revert to "normal" email sending through my web domain host email servers, but that appeared to be blocked as well (as could be expected). I poked around on my web domain hosting service web site (Fatcow) and after about 45 minutes of trying this and that I finally found an alternate port to use for email that might not be blocked. Bingo. Port 587 for outbound email SMTP traffic is not blocked by the local network and does get through to Fatcow's SMTP email server.

So, this post was sent to this blog directly from Outlook Express running on my notebook computer in my hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express.

Note: Other domain host email servers may use different alternate ports for SMTP.

Incidentally, Fatcow has a very short-term introductory special of 25% off for the first year of full web site hosting. The normal price, that I pay, is $99 per year, so the introductory special that expires tomorrow, Friday, December 22, 2006 is $74 for the first year. I have four domains hosted with Fatcow and am quite satisfied with the service, reliability, and price. I've been using them for about six years now. Please be sure to give them my domain as your "referral":,,, or

Note: If you read this after 12/22, call them to try to get the deal anyway. I suspect that they will give you the deal anyway, as long as you are nice about it. Even if you don't get the deal, the service and reliability is worth $99 per year. You may save a few bucks elsewhere, but is the potential hassle really worth it?

-- Jack Krupansky

Blogging from New York City

I'm spending two weeks on "vacation" in New York City. I just arrived late last night. Actually it was early this morning (1:53 a.m.) before I actually got to my room. My flight from Seattle would have been on time and landed at 12:02 a.m., but ATC put us in a holding pattern for 20 minutes, causing me to just miss the 12:30 a.m. bus, so I had to catch the 1:00 a.m. CoachUSA bus to Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. I'm staying at the Holiday Inn Express Chelsea that is on 29th Street between 7th and 8th Avenue. I got a really quite room in the back even though work crews were jackhammering a hole in the middle of the street in front of the hotel. The good news is that the hotel has free wireless Internet access, which is what I am using at this moment in my room.

It's already after 10:00 a.m., so time to go off in search of adventure in "The City". I'm thinking of doing my normal Saturday routine (since it may rain on Saturday) of wandering around all of lower Manhattan. The only thing I will miss is that there is no farmer's market at Union Square on Thursdays (I vaguely recall).

Hmmm... I tried to send this via my normal email process, but there is oviously some ISP settings issue. Instead, I am sending via webmail from Fatcow, where my web site and email is hosted. I'll try to figure it out later, maybe, but it does make sending email significantly more inconvenient. Sigh.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, December 18, 2006

You have got to love selling

Any entrepreneurial venture requires a deep commitment to selling. Unfortunately, sales was never my forte. In fact, I have always had a distinct and very strong aversion to anything having to do with sales. I suspect this is because I always felt that so many sales and marketing efforts smacked of being borderline or outright manipulation, and to my mind, manipulating a consumer is a truly reprehensible thing to do.

I have no problem with providing information or showing a consumer how they can benefit from a product or service, but to my mind, there is a line between providing information that a consumer voluntarily wants and trying to manipulate the consumer in an involuntary manner.

There are lots of gray areas here, and many people are all too eager and willing to exploit those gray areas, but my inclination is to avoid the gray areas unless it is crystal clear that any "selling" is strictly informative and voluntary in nature, and not manipulative or involuntary in any way.

I think there are far too many people who enjoy the manipulation aspect of selling. My strong suspicion is that real selling can be done without the manipulation, but the evidence strongly suggests that my view is the minority view, or that a lot of sales people are unwilling to label many of their practices as "manipulative."

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Actual hotel budget final version 2.0 for trip to New York City at the end of the year

It took several weeks, but I now have my updated and final budget for my hotel nights for my two-week trip to New York City at the end of the year. I used Priceline for all 14 nights, using their Name Your Own Price bidding feature. I actually came in well under budget. Version 1.0 of my hotel budget came to $1,880 for 14 nights or an average of $134.29 per night. That seemed very reasonable for Manhattan My final version 2.0 actual hotel budget came to $1,628 or an average of $116.29 per night, for a total savings of $252 from the original budget.

I didn't include taxes and Priceline fees in the original budget. The grand total for my final, actual hotel budget bill comes to $1,938.76 or $138.48 per night. That is not bad at all for Manhattan, including New Year's Eve.

My air fare was $450.60, so my overall travel expense is $2,389.36. Plus a modest amount for ground transportation. Plus meal expense beyond my usual daily mail expense.

I'll take the Casino bus between Manhattan and Atlantic City, which charges a reasonable fare for the bus trip and then the casino gives you cash back so the trip is really cheap, asuming you don't gamble the cash away.

I will be staying at six different hotels, including the two nights in Atlantic City.

My hotel stay itinerary works out as follows:

  1. Nights 1-4: Wednesday, December 20,2006 through Saturday, December 23, 2006 (4 nights) at the Holiday Inn Express Manhattan - Chelsea on West 29th Street at $80 per night.
  2. Nights 5-6: Sunday, December 24,2006 and Monday, December 25, 2006 (2 nights) at the Murray Hill East Suite Hotel on East 39th Street at $80 per night.
  3. Nights 7-8: Tuesday, December 26,2006 and Wednesday, December 27, 2006 (2 nights) at the Best Western Envoy Inn in Atlantic City at St. James Place and Pacific Avenue at $49 per night.
  4. Nights 9-10: Thursday, December 28,2006 and Friday, December 29, 2006 (2 nights) at The Roosevelt Hotel at 45th Street and Madison Avenue near Grand Central Terminal at $180 per night.
  5. Nights 11-12: Saturday, December 30,2006 and Sunday, December 31, 2006 (2 nights) at Holiday Inn Wall Street District near Gold Street and Maiden Lane at $220 per night.
  6. Nights 13-14: Monday, January 1, 2007 and Tuesday, January 2, 2007 (2 nights) at Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street near Park Avenue and Grand Central Terminal at $125 per night.

It took me a total of 91 bids in 14 sessions over a 28 days to arrange these nights. That is a lot of effort, but this was a complicated trip since the demand and pricing for hotels varies so greatly from almost day to day during the holiday season and I did want to stay within a tight budget for an expensive city. In the old days, I would simply pay $199 per night and be done with it. I haven't arranged this itinerary before. Next year, I'll have a much more clear sense of the hotel market in Manhattan during the holidays and be able to bid more quickly, although I might not get better results.

Now I need to find out what each hotel offers for Internet access.

And I really need to work out a meal budget. Some nights I'll have to eat pizza or fast food so that other nights I can spend $60 to $85 on dinner alone.

Note: I didn't use the Name Your Own Price feature of Priceline for the two $49 nights in Atlantic City since I tried a $45 bid which was rejected and $49 is so cheap that saving such a small amount is not worth any significant effort.

Note: Some people (many if not most people) mistakenly refer to Grand Central Terminal as Grand Central Station. There actually is a Grand Central Station near Grand Central Terminal, but it is a post office.

-- Jack Krupansky

Less darkness in downtown Bellevue

It turned out that not all of downtown Bellevue still had power this morning. Bellevue Galleria had power, but the west side of 106th Street and the Westin and Lincoln Square and Bellevue Square and other areas did not.

I went by Bellevue Galleria around 10:30 p.m. this evening and the movies and restaurants were all open. Barnes and Noble was open.

I crossed the street, but it was dark on the west side and there were no street lights or traffic lights on.

I walked over to the Westin and saw that their lobby was lit up, but they only had emergency power. The Westin is significant because that is where our group holiday party is supposed to be held Saturday night. The Westin people at the desk seemed semi-cheery, but still somewhat depressed.

I turned around and walked back uphill to 108th Street to go see if the Seastar restaurant was open (it was) and noticed that the lights were back on for the downtown Bellevue transit center. I looked back at the Westin and Bellevue Square and the lights were now on.

I walked back to the Westin and the lobby was fully lit and the staff was in a very good mood. They insisted that our holiday party would happen on Saturday evening. In fact, by 11:00 p.m. there was an email confirming that the party "is a GO."

There were still some traffic lights off on 8th Avenue near Lincoln Square and darkness westward on 10th Avenue, but progress was being made.

Earlier I went to Whole Foods to get something for dinner and it was quite a zoo. The parking lot was full of cars waiting for parking spaces to open up. The display cases that are usually stuffed with rolls and bagels and pastries were completely empty. And there was very little bread either. There was a long line for hot prepared foods. It reminded me of a soup line for refugees. In fact, a lot of these people probably had no power to cook.

Oops. I just noticed my lights flicker a couple of times. Time to hit send.

I usually see a movie early Saturday afternoon. I prefer to see movies at Lincoln Square since it is a little more modern and larger, so I'll have to wait and see if they really do open. I think they will, but Bellevue Galleria will surely be open as a backup.

I was going to get a haircut at Bellevue Square before my trip to New York City on Wednesday. In fact, I almost went this afternoon, but it was good that I didn't waste the time since it turned out the entire mall was closed due to the power. I may punt and just get my hair cut in New York where I used to go when I lived there. It may cost only two or three dollars more. If it is convenient on Saturday, I'll do it, otherwise I'll fit it into my open New York schedule.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, December 15, 2006

Why I am not in favor of organ donation and organ transplants

I was reading an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times by Francis Delmonico entitled "A Second Look at Death" concerning an issue related to organ donation, and it reminded me of something I had been meaning to say on the topic of organ transplants.

Years ago, I used to be a big fan of organ donation. Saving lives and all of that. But over time I have changed my mind and now oppose organ donation. I don't viscerally oppose other people being involved with organ donation, but I myself do not want to be any part of it and would recommend that others adopt a similar position. Death is a simple fact of life. I believe that it is better to encourage and facilitate people living their natural lives in a natural manner, and organ transplants are distinctly unnatural.

We should all try to live life to the fullest, but clinging and resorting to distinctly unnatural dramatic methods doesn't make a lot of sense, to me.

When your natural time has come, it has come. Rather than desperately clinging to every last shred of hope or desire, we ultimately should consider simply letting go and letting nature follow its own, natural course.

Dying with dignity should be a goal and be considered a very good thing. Desperate clinging to life should be discouraged.

I'm not opposed to "moderate" medical measures, but extreme measures such as organ transplants and extreme cancer treatments simply don't make sense to me.

I may go so far as to be opposed to even blood transfusions. I haven't firmly set my mind on that, but I am leaning that way. I'm all but there, but I won't take a position of these types of matters without thinking them through very carefully.

I am also opposed to other forms of "harvesting", such as bones, skin, and other body tissue.

I am also opposed to "live" organ donations and transplants, such as kidneys.

I'm not opposed to using dead human bodies for some forms of research and teaching, but I'm sure there are some forms that I might strongly oppose if I knew of them.

I am also opposed to so-called "life extension", other than inherently "natural" forms such as better nutrition, proper rest, proper exercise, and properly managing stress.

As a society we seem to be placing too high a premium on "saving" lives when the premium should be on helping more people live better lives.

On top of all of that, organ donation and transplatation is a big business, with lots of money to be made by lots of people, and that offends me very, very deeply. Going up against such an entrenched force is not an easy task. Techncally, I am not go up against them in any direct manner, but simply expressing my views on this topic may be viewed in a distinctly negative manner by those who are "in the business."

Every human life has or will have a beginning and an end. We should respect and facilitate that whole life cycle as best as we can, while keeping it as natural as we can.

-- Jack Krupansky

Hello darkness my old friend

... I've come to talk with you again.

(Apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)

I usually don't get a chance to do much blogging on a weekday such as today, but... that's the story here.

We had quite a storm last night here in the Seattle area and the net result is a lack of power for many homes and businesses, including headquarters for The Evil Empire in Redmond where I work.

The power was flickering so much last night that it confused the digital thermostat in my apartment so that my heat would not come on. I was finally able to successfully reset it when I got up at 5:10 a.m. The power was fine. I looked outside and the wind had died down and the streets seemed dry. Building lights were on. Business as usual as far as I was concerned. Or so I thought.

I walked to the bus station here in downtown Bellevue shortly before 6:00 a.m. and only noticed a couple of buildings that weren't brightly lit as usual. Oddly, the bus transit center had no lights on even though the buildings on either side, including Starbucks and a construction site, were "lighting as usual". I even saw some holiday decorative lighting on, including a couple of the tower cranes at construction sites.

My bus was on time and off we went. Not as many riders as on a typical Friday.

As we get to the first stop in front of a gas station at 8th and 116th, I see long lines at the pumps. I haven't seen that since the oil embargo back in 1973.

We skipped the next bus stop to take a detour. So far, all the lights were on. Then, we get to the top of a hill at 124th Street and... total darkness. Wow. No street lights. No traffic lights. No nothing, other than light traffic at 6:10 a.m. I don't know exactly why we detoured, but even on the detour we had to swerve around fallen trees. In fact, at one point the driver turned off the interior lights so he could see better to go around a large fallen tree in the road with no lights but vehicle headlights.

We picked up very few people at the normal stops.

It was so weird. Total darkness. The driver would call out the stops, but you couldn't see any landmarks to recognize anything.

As the bus (MT 253) crossed over SR 520 on 148th Street everything was still darkness other than headlights and taillights, and several miles off in the distance the bright lights of the high-rise buildings of downtown Bellevue (including my apartment building), shimmering like the emerald city.

The bus driver said that anybody who didn't want to get off could just stay on and get off on his return trip to downtown Bellevue.

I joked that if I could see my stop I would get off, otherwise I would stay on. A few seconds later I see a brightly lit building, the one next to the one I work in. Actually, there were no lights other than emergency lights in that building and it was brightly lit only due to construction lights in the lot next door where they are building the new home for Microsoft Research. It was interesting that the construction people were at work after all of this, but maybe they were simply securing the site after the storm.

At the very last moment I decided to get off the bus since I did see a fair amount of emergency lighting in the building next to mine. Besides, the driver said I could just get back on the same bus 40 minutes later on his return trip to downtown Bellevue.

I had my work Smartphone and checked my work email while on the bus. There was an email from the facilities people at about 5:15 a.m. which basically said that buildings on the Microsoft campus would have limited access, emergency lighting, but no normal power and no services.

I tried to get in at my normal side entrance with my cardkey, and it beeped but didn't open. Ditto with the front entrance. I started walking towards the underground parking garage when somebody came out the entrance I couldn't get in and told me which entrance I could get in.

I could hear the emergency generator rumbling away in the parking garage.

There was more than enough emergency lighting, including all the hallways. I walked up to my office area. It was so quiet. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Just me. No computer fans. No HVAC. No nothing. It was still relatively warm, so the power must have been on a good part of the night.

I checked some more overnight work email on my Smartphone (the really cool T-Mobile Dash). I hung around waiting for the pre-dawn light to arrive so I could see where I'm walking outside. I got off the bus around 6:30 a.m. Sunrise isn't until about 7:50 a.m., but there is a fair amount of light by 7:10 a.m.

So, off I went shortly after 7:00 a.m. A lot more traffic now, but still no street lights or traffic lights. It's amazing how much more civil a lot of people drive when they are forced to be courteous to simply negotiate to get through a busy intersection that has no working traffic signal. And they are nicer to pedestrians, too!

I always walk home from work every evening anyway and it is usually dark by then, so I decided to walk home rather than catch the return bus. The bus is free since The Evil Empire gives us free bus passes, but I enjoy walking when I have the time.

My trip home is south on 148th Street, then southwest on Bel-Red Road all the way to 8th Avenue and downtown Bellevue. More traffic as the minutes ticked by. But where are they all headed? I'm sure plenty of them were Microsoft employees... rushing off to their darkened offices. Ah, the force of habit. I approached one intersection, saw the traffic and instinctively pushed the pedestrian signal button... a moment later realizing how stupid that was since the traffic signals were completely dead due to lack of power.

One stretch of Bel-Red Road was carpeted with small pieces of broken branches. If you love the smell of evergreen trees, you would have been in heaven. Luckily, the sidewalks were reasonably passable. I did periodically stop to pull some larger branches out of the roadway.

As I started down the hill past 124th Street I started to see lights again. At the bottom of the hill I could see the glare of hundreds of ceiling fixtures in the Lamps Plus store, signaling that I had arrived back at civilization.

I walked into Whole Foods, misguidedly thinking I could simply pick up a pastry for breakfast. Nothing but long lines, like that gas station. Forget that idea. I had some cookies and Snapple back at my apartment anyway.

The construction crews in the lot next to my apartment building are spending the day pumping rainwater out of the bottom of the 30-foot deep construction pit. They are putting up a 19-story "sister" to my building. I was glad to see that the new tower crane that they just erected last Sunday held up fine in the truly fierce winds last night.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my building. Some of the balcony wind screens on some upper floors were ripped off last night and came tumbling down to the street. Twisted aluminum and shattered glass lying on the plaza area. I could hear the metal thudding against the building on the way down last night.

In addition to my work Smartphone, I also have access to OWA - Outlook Web Access - so I can keep up on work email today and at least pretend that I am doing some useful work. I keep calling in to the security recorded message to check Building power status back at The Empire. I'll probably go in if it does come back on by 3:00 p.m., simply as a matter of priciple.

Now, time to get back to some serious blogging. And I need to use Priceline to nail down at least a few more of my hotel nights for my two-week trip to New York City that starts on Wednesday.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Big money to be made off global warming

An article in The New York Times by Steve Lohr entitled "The Cost of an Overheated Planet" is an interesting overview of the economics of global warming, or at least the economics of attempting to avert and reverse global warming. It certainly talks a lot about "costs", but if you read the article carefully, it is really simply a catalog of all the vested interest groups that serve to benefit significantly from pursuing anti-warming policies. Nuclear power, researchers, venture capitalists, accounting firms, consultants, politicians, policy analysts, big business, and on and on. The only people who won't gain financially are... yes, you guessed it... innocent consumers. In other words, business as usual. Global warming and climate change are primarily tools for obtaining and manipulating power and money. Any benefit that might accrue to the environment will be somewhat incidental.

Virtually every paragraph of the article contained some point that I have an isue with, but I'll spare you a full recitation. Here's one:

Yet it is increasingly clear that there is a considerable cost to carbon dioxide emissions, especially to future generations, as climate specialists warn of declines in farm output in poor tropical countries, fiercer hurricanes and coastal floods that could make many people refugees.

I'm sorry, but speaking of costs to "future generations" in the present tense is simply absurd. Anybody who so boldly assumes that the state of the world in the future, especially decades from now, is a locked-in near-certainty, is truly trying to pull a fast one on you, especially when they are nominally a "reporter" who is supposed to focus on facts and not gazing into crystal balls.

If it is "increasingly clear", then doesn't that imply that it isn't quite so clear now? What isn't clear now? What wasn't clear a year ago? What wasn't clear when Al Gore starred in his movie? How shaky is the current modeling of global warming and climate change and their effects.

If "climate specialists warn" of various calamities, are they warning of a certainty, a strong possibility, a likelihood, a moderate possibility, a modest possibility, a slim possibility, or what? If an absolute near-certainty, do they really have the science to back up that assertion? If not an absolute near-certainty, that what probability, and do they really have the science to back up that assertion? And remember, we are talking about the future, many years from now. Even without putting some grand scheme into action, how many factors could change and in what ways over the next few decades.

Haven't we been here before, many times in the history of mankind? Every few decades, a kind of fear seems to grip segments of society and gets projected into the future, projecting a dark and ominous disaster. But then, as the years go by, society, technology, science, and patterns of thinking evolve and the fear begins to die down. Problems that do actually crop up are readily solvable or incent innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with novel solutions that can be readily and economically applied to the real problems at hand.

I have no doubt that the environment will be reasonable "clean" fifty years from now, and maybe even cleaner a hundred years from now. All without some humongous crash program that distorts virtually every segment of society.

There are already a myriad of incentives in place to evolve towards cleaner energy and a cleaner environment. There simply is no good reason to add many layers of unnecessary bureaucracy to our current social systems. The path into the future won't be as smooth as some people would like, but it will get us there.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

By 2040: an Arctic with no ice?

An article on The Times Online by Lewis Smith entitled "By 2040: an Arctic with no ice?" discusses recent "calculations" concerning how quickly the "summer ice" of the Arctic ice cap may melt. Previously scientific models had suggested it would take another 65-75 years (not until 2070-2080) before the summer ice would be completed melted, but more recent simulation models are suggesting that the summer ice will be gone in 30 years.

How alarmed should we be?

Well, not so fast. Slow down, and consider what we have to work with.

These are simply "simulations" or "calculations" based on "models".

If the science had been all settled, why yet another new model?

And why should be believe that this new model is really the final, ultimate, end-all model?

The models are certainly interesting, but how well do they really forecast the future? And decades into the future at that?

According to Marika Holland who led this latest study:

We have already witnessed major losses in sea ice, but our research suggests that the decrease over the next few decades could be far more dramatic.

Wait a minute... how solid is this research if it merely "suggests" what "could" happen?

I am all in favor of funding the scientists to continue research into how the atmosphere and climate work, but it is simply not credible for any of these scientists to "suggest" that they truly fathom the complex mechanisms of planetary geology, continental land masses, foliage, oceans, the atmosphere, solar heating and cooling, climate, and weather systems with sufficient rigor to be able to produce relatively simple models that can forecast ocean, atmosphere, and climate effects decades into the future. It simply isn't credible.

By all means, let us encourage the scientists to produce ever more sophisticated models, but it is simply far too soon to base any governmental, economic, or environmental policies on any of the current, dubious "research" models.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, December 11, 2006

Predictions for 2007

I usually don't waste my time doing detailed "predictions" for events that will happen in the coming year, but now that I see other people doing their predictions, I've decided to revisit the reasons why predictions should be considered as well as my old reasons for refraining from them. I haven't decided to do ahead and make predictions, but I am giving the concept serious consideration.

One angle on predictions is to simply identify your niche areas of expertise and simple express that expertise.

Another angle is to pick niche areas where you wish you had expertise and make some wild guesses, and then use the results to gauge your intuitive grasp of those niches.

Actually, I just remembered that I did in fact make some predictions about the stock market and economy back on January 3, 2006. I had intended to update those predictions at mid-year, but didn't since I became a full-time employee (not one of my predictions). I haven't checked any of those predictions, but it's a couple of weeks early anyway. I suppose at a minimum that I will update those 2006 predictions for 2007.

One other thing... it may actually be more fun and enlightening to simply list out questions that you wish you could answer for the coming year. If you have suggested answers, fine, but simply asking good questions can be enlightening if not entertaining in itself.

A few:

  1. Will GM or Ford declare bankruptcy?
  2. Will Microsoft finally gain significant search market share?
  3. Will Sun be acquired?
  4. Will the Web 2.0 bubble burst?
  5. Will venture capital investment surge?
  6. Will Robert Scoble jump to another company?
  7. Will there be at least a 25% drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq?
  8. Will Iran continue to "slip the noose" that the Neoconservatives keep trying to skip over its neck?
  9. Which tech startup will zoom up to be "the new Google"?
  10. Will Apple finally begin to lose digital media player market share?
  11. Will Zune be more than an "also ran" distant number two or three?
  12. Will "global warming" become a bigger problem, or recede for at least the year?
  13. Will the dollar fall below $1.45 to the euro?
  14. Will the Fed cut interest rates, raise them, or keep them the same?
  15. Will crude oil finally hit $100 per barrel?
  16. Will speculators finally abandon commodities?
  17. Will inflation fall back below 2%, rise above 3%, or remain in the 2% to 3% range?
  18. Will GDP hit 3% in any quarter?
  19. Will there be a recession?
  20. Will there be a "mega" terrorist attack (more than 500 deaths in one attack)?
  21. Will Saddam Hussein be executed in 2007?
  22. Will the Democrats actually accomplish anything in 2007?
  23. Will blogging be an even bigger hit or sprial into a decline?
  24. What will the next big Web 2.0 technology look like?

-- Jack Krupansky

Weather on my trip to New York City

One of the uncertainties of my two-week trip to New York City which starts a week from Wednesday, is the weather. I can't predict the weather, but I can assume that some percentage of the days may be snowy, some rainy, and some incredibly cold and windy. I'll be prepared to thrive quite well if the weather is perfect or near-perfect, but I'll have contingency activities up my sleeve if any given day or evening turns out to be really bad weather.

In fact, if on two or three days the weather is so bad as to keep me indoors for all but food runs, I'll be more than content to simply relax, rest, do a little reading and writing, and maybe watch a little TV or see a movie or two.

A little rain or a little snow or a little wind or a little cold won't be a big deal and won't significantly affect my activities, but extremes will likely require a contingency response.

Given that I'll be in the city for 13 and a half days, I can afford to have two or three or four really bad weather days without even moderately affecting my overall level of satisfaction.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm a degenerate consumer

Yes, it is true, I am a degenerate consumer. What does that mean? It simply means that I don't participate in many of the consumption activities characteristic of the "average" consumer.

  • I don't watch television.
  • I don't have a radio.
  • I don't listen to or buy music.
  • I don't have a CD player.
  • I don't have a DVD player.
  • I don't cook or buy groceries.
  • I don't have a car or even drive.
  • I don't have a cell phone.
  • Without a TV, I don't have cable.
  • I don't subscribe to any newspapers or magazines.
  • I don't have or even want a broadband Internet connection.
  • I don't play games or video games.
  • I don't make many long distance phone calls or even local calls.
  • I'm not married.
  • I don't have any kids.
  • No pets.
  • I don't own a home or even want to.
  • I don't even have any furniture.
  • I don't have any jewelry or even a watch.
  • I don't wear glasses or contact lenses even though I am a little nearsighted.
  • Spending $6 on a sandwich is usually out of the question.
  • Although I am 52 years old, I take no medications, other than an occasional aspirin.
  • The list goes on.

In fact, I can walk through a shopping mall without buying anything, or even wanting to buy anything. It all seems do foreign to me.

Judging from the norms for consumer behavior, I simply am not normal. As a consumer, I am... degenerate.

Now, to be honest, there are still a fair number of traditional consumer activities that I do participate in, including going to the movies, eating in restaurants, buying linen and toiletries, and basic clothing. I have a notebook PC and dial-up internet service and an old Sony PDA, but nothing fancy, I occasionally buy paperback books, and I do have a couple of credit cards.

My point is that as a consumer, I am not a very good representation of what an "average" consumer is like or how they behave. In fact, when I read descriptions of "consumer spending" and "consumer behavior", I have to shake my head and assume that I must be from another planet. If I have a few extra bucks in my pocket, my question is not what to spend it on, but how quickly I can put it into a savings account of some form.

The real question I have is whether going forward the average consumer will be even less like me, or even more like me. Will the average consumer trend towards spending more, or spending less?

Or to put that question in more operational terms, how will the spending patterns of a young person a year out of school evolve over the next few years?

For myself, I expect my consumption behavior to continue to degenerate. "Ever simpler." That may be my motto. On the other hand, I may be rapidly approaching the point at which opportunities for further frugality and simplicity are either not readily available or not particularly palatable.

-- Jack Krupansky

Split science programs out NASA

An editorial in The New York Times entitled "Back to the Moon, Permanently" concludes that:

It would be a shame if an underfinanced program to return to the Moon on a permanent basis and then venture on to Mars forced reductions in research programs of higher scientific value.

I disagree and would like to emphasize that it is a serious mistake to tightly link space travel and science programs within NASA.

I do agree that research programs of high scientific value, especially those related to space and Earth science are essential and must be adequately funded, but I would argue that the two should be funded separately and managed separately and not be bundled together within the one umbrella of NASA.

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, should stick to a focus on the research, design, development, and operation of air and space vehicles, including rockets, satellites, space stations, and even moon bases, but that all of the science programs should be funded and operated outside of NASA in the relevant government agencies. For example research about the atmosphere, such as is relevant to the debates over global warming and climate change, should be budgeted and operated from within NOAA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration rather than NASA. In fact, most of the NASA science programs should be organizationally under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Yes, NASA should be held accountable to meeting the needs of "users" such as NOAA and other science programs, but to have NASA have its fingers in the "science pie" is an egregious conflict of interest. We need to know that science programs are being pursued for their scientific value and not merely because they justify NASA launch vehicles or structures. And, we need to be sure that valuable scientific programs are not lost due to "budget priorities" within NASA.

Restructure NASA and maybe The Times will get what it wants.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Reading and writing on my trip to New York City

I'll have more than enough potential activities to keep me 220% occupied during my two-week trip to New York City which starts a week from Wednesday, I still feel like I should try o do something useful as well. On the other hand, relaxing and resting get top priority. The default would be to do some reading, but I don't want to "waste" hours a day when I only have two weeks. I'd also like to do some writing as well.

My current thought is to pick up a different magazine or journal each day and familiarize myself with a totally new topic every day, focusing on stuff that I have little knowledge of and even no current interest in. Maybe I'll spend an hour or two a day with that type of "reading", at lunch time or resting before going to dinner and to put me to sleep before I go to bed.

My morning reading might be focused on reading The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or even the Daily News or The New York Post on occasion for variety.

At a minimum, my reading may include some travel, food, politics, sports, photography, or even (cringe) fashion.

I would like to do some writing, but we'll see. I don't want to be overly ambitious for such a short period of time where relaxation is the priority. Blogging may be enough writing for me. But whether I simply blog or write more extensively, I would need to have access to a PC.

Of course, I would actually do some old-fashioned longhand writing, but then it wouldn't be accessible online, although I could scan it and OCR it. Or maybe the novelty of writing without the constraints of a keyboard and text editor would be liberating. Whether I put such writing online may be beside the point. I already take lots of notes every day, with index cards and notebooks, but I usually take only very abbreviated notes and leave any full-blown writing for the PC. Still, it might be interesting to experiment with a change.

I definitely am not into writing fiction or "stories", but there might be some potential for writing narratives for experiences I may have had which may or may not be interesting to others. Or maybe even write narratives which forecast the future use of technologies that I anticipate in the coming decades.

I have also considered taking and organizing photos, but somehow that doesn't feel like the right thing for me to day. Flickr is full of photo sets from travelers. A few more photos from me would be lost in all of the noise and probably be more effort than the satisfaction I might get.

-- Jack Krupansky

Got the new credit cards

Both of by new credit cards came this week. I now have three, which is probably enough for me for the foreseeable future.

One is a MasterCard from Household Bank (HSBC) and offers 0% interest on purchases for the first six months. I intend to put most of the rest of my New York City trip expenses on it, make the minimum monthly payments (plus a modest amount) and pay it off over those six months and let the cash that I could have used to pay off the expenses sit in savings where it earns roughly 5% interest. My expectation is that I can use fresh savings (extra cash after trimming expenses) to pay down the card balance without touching my existing savings.

The other is a MasterCard from Barclays Bank of Delaware that is branded for Frontier Airlines Early Returns frequent flyer program. It doesn't have an introductory rate for purchases, but does earn miles for purchases. I will probably begin using this card for my regular daily and weekly expenses and pay off the balance due every month.

Both cards have no annual fee.

Unfortunately, they both have fairly low credit limits. Together they have only half of the credit limit of my CapitalOne card.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Internet vacation? Part 2

Now that I've made my New Year's Eve hotel reservation for my two-week trip to New York City at the end of the year, I am back to thinking about how to turn this into an Internet Vacation. I'm fairly confident I can manage to dramatically reduce my overall Web usage. I intend to read The New York Times  every day and even watch a little television to get my daily news fix. As far as email, I think that everybody is amenable to the fact that failure to reply to email "during the holidays" is acceptable and expected social behavior.

One potential need for accessing the net during my stay is that I am considering not booking most of my hotel days in advance and then book them via Priceline literally a day or two in advance to get even better deals. Usually I am fairly picky about where I stay, but I'll have so many days in New York and most of them will be fairly decent, so I can afford to take a chance that a few of the hotel nights might be less desirable than my normal standards. OTOH, this strategy requires that I access the net a bunch of times during my stay, detracting from my enjoyment of the stay. On the other other hand, pre-planning all nights eliminates flexibility. For example, I would like to take a side trip to Atlantic City, but either I have to decide soon which days to go, or have to play with the net to make last minute arrangements.

Ah, for the good old days, when I could simply walk into any hotel and simply ask if they had a room and charge it to my credit card. Alas, such carefree spending is no longer within my relatively frugal budget.

The big question remains whether I can eliminate 100% of the need for lugging my notebook computer around with me.

The other big question is whether I can really go a full two weeks without doing any blogging. That would be really roughing it.

-- Jack Krupansky

Relatively cheap hotel room in New York City for New Year's Eve weekend

After numerous attempts I was finally successful at using's Name Your Own Price feature to get a relatively cheap and decent hotel room in New York City for Saturday and Sunday nights of New Year's Eve Weekend on my two-week trip to New York City at the end of the year. I tried bidding on five different days for a total of 37 bids and was finally successful on that 37th bid at the 3-star Holiday Inn Wall Street District on Gold Street for $220 per night. With all of the taxes and Priceline service fee, that added up to $522.27 or $261.14 per night. That's not bad at all for a decent hotel on a high-demand weekend.

These were the toughest two nights of my trip, so I wanted to get them nailed down since they would be the priciest and then I can adjust my budget, and then do the remaining nights after my next credit card statement date (December 10) so that I won't have to pay until February. I know that at least one of the hotels that wanted more than $400 for New Years Eve had a rate of $199 for other nearby nights, so I should be able to get room nights in the $100 to $150 range. I'll stay some of the nights in fancier hotels and then some in much less fancy digs to make my budget work.

I probably could have gotten the hotel with a lot fewer bids, but I also would have probably paid more. I needed 37 bids because I inched my way up from $110 to find the lowest price so that I would leave as little money as possible on the table. My budget was for $300, so if I was only going to make only six bids, I probably would have tried $200 and then $250. offered to sell me the same hotel room for $484 per night, plus taxes, so I got the room for more than 50% off. Priceline's public "Special Rate" was $484 as well.

I might have gotten a better deal if I had bid closer to my stay dates, but it could have gone the other way as well given the special nature of these nights in this city.

I would have preferred a midtown hotel, but downtown isn't bad considering that there are plenty of good restaurants in SoHo and Tribeca, a short walk (for me) from the financial district. I would typically wander through this area (stopping at the nearby South Street Seaport and Pier 17 area) on my typical New York Saturday walk all around lower Manhattan anyway. Usually I would walk back up to Midtown and not have the energy to travel back downtown again in the same day, but this hotel arrangement will make dining in the area my default choice, at least on Saturday. I might actually eat dinner uptown and then walk downtown after midnight to get a fuller view of the "cultural experience" called New Year's Eve in New York City. Who knows, maybe I'll skip a fancy dinner and eat some fastfood and then go hang out in the massive crowd north of Times Square. Maybe it will simply depend on the weather.

Finally, here's a great unanswered philosophical question: Is it New Years Eve or New Year's Eve (the apostrophe)? I think the latter is the "proper" form, but the former seems to be commonly accepted these days. You could argue the former in the sense that it is a plural across all years. The Merriam-Webbster dictionary has New Year's Day, so I'll start using the apostrophe: New Year's Eve.

I'm just glad to have this reservation out of the way since it was really taking a lot of effort. Now to adjust my hotel budget. On December 11 I'll bid for one night to see how good a rate I can get for a "normal" New York night. I'll try to get a 3-star for $85 and a 1-star for $55. I probably won't get either of these very low-ball bids, but it costs nothing to try and then I'll know for sure that the cheapest price is higher.

-- Jack Krupansky