February 2008 Archives

Air Travel Tips

I've been doing a bit of travel (planning) in the recent past -- here are three tidbits I've found useful.

Best Reason to Join Southwest's Rapid Rewards Program.  At SeaTac (that's Seattle Tacoma International -- SEA -- for you non-locals), Rapid Rewards members can use the priority queue reserved for "premier" travelers at the airport security check point.  On most airlines, only first/business class passengers or passengers that have elite status on a frequent flier program (i.e. you've accumulated a bizillion miles) get access to the queue.  Sign up for the Rapid Rewards program and you can avoid those long lines at security and zip straight to your gate.  It's free and you don't have to have flown any flights.

Hopefully, this feature will be extended to other airports as well.

Also, Southwest remains the best carrier for frequent travel up and down the west coast.  Low cost, flexible scheduling, and no penalties for cancellations make it the best experience for those quick trips between SFO/OAK, LAX, SEA, LAS.  And it's fast and easy to accumulate free trips once you've signed up for Rapid Rewards.

united.jpgBest Use of United Mileage Plus.  I rarely fly United anymore.  Service sucks and I don't travel  SEA/SFO->NYC/BOS with regularity anymore, where United flights were convenient (Plus JetBlue and Virgin America are much better experiences for these trips.)   However, I've accumulated a lot of frequent flier miles on United.  Using miles on their Mileage Plus "saver" program, you can fly to Asia for 60,000 miles . For a mere 30,000 miles more (90,00 total) you can go business class.  Well worth it if you can find a seat.   If you can't find a seat, don't start looking for a "standard" award (which will cost you 200,000 miles).  Try booking a first class saver seat -- there's more inventory than that for business class -- and it will only cost you 120,000 miles.  In short, using frequent flier miles for business (or first) class instead of coach for international travel is a great deal.

tripit.gifUse Tripit.  When you book a flight online, send a copy of your booking to plans@tripit.com.  You get a master itinerary and more.   No registration at Tripit is required.

What I really like about Tripit is the "no registration" part.  You don't have to register, login, or even visit their  website.   It's a clever application design that I haven't seen anywhere else.  From an end user perspective, the friction to use Tripit is minimal.  Kudos to the team for figuring this out. 

[Caveat:  Seems like there might be some Terms of Service issues with respect to privacy since you, the end user, don't agree to anything.  Hopefully Tripit has done something reasonable here.]

Catching up with Paul Boutin

We stopped by Moose's the other Friday night to catch up with Paul Boutin holding court.  I hadn't seen Paul in years.  Paul is one of my favorite writers these days.  Make that nerd-come-famous-writer. 

I met Paul when he came over from Boston fresh off of Athena.  We'd hang out at Cafe Montmartre in Palo Alto on Friday nights with Isaac.   I think Dave Lemke was his hero.  Later, I wondered if he and Steve Jobs were twins separated at birth:


Today, there's the Bono thing, which I don't quite get but fully appreciate:


This seems to have come full circle:


Paul, it was great seeing you.  Seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Can We Learn from the Past?



After peaking at $747.25/share, Google (GOOG) closed today at $508.95.  It's been a sharp decline over the past few months, but its meteoric rise since its IPO was even more phenomenal.  If you are a Google employee that's been around for, say, 2 years or even longer,  you have vested shares that are worth real money.  Secretly, you calculate your net worth more than a few times a week.  "Holy Sh*t", you think to yourself,  "I'm worth X millions of dollars, not even counting the unvested shares." You are quite pleased and you also rationalize the latest drop as only a temporary downturn.  The stock price will jump back, you say to yourself.  After all, Google *defines* the Internet.  You work for the greatest company ever.  Yet, maybe in the back of your mind, you are a bit concerned -- should you have sold some stock yesterday?  That recent decline looks kinda like the last decline.  And, even after a 30% decline, you are still in the money.  "Might as well stick it out", you tell yourself.  So, you continue to hold out -- selling nothing or only a small amount of your shares.

Maybe you exercised some options but did not sell -- holding out for potentially long term capital gain treatment on your winnings earnings.  You weren't figuring on the decline and maybe you forgot about the AMT implications.  Maybe that worry is another trigger in your mind that you should sell.  Or, maybe you've chosen to ignore it.

You are truly blessed.  You've made a great choice to come work at Google.  You've been rewarded handsomely.  All those free meals, massages, and trips re-affirm your greatness.  And, you are among the select few that get to define the future.  It's all good, isn't it?

Maybe Google is truly a unique experience and the stock will rebound.  It's kinda hard to tell.  However, our past, the repeated boom-bust cycles in the Valley of yesteryears, says something different.  Certainly, Google's success dwarfs the successes of most all other "booms."  But, we've seen this pattern before:


Can we say with any certainty that the bust is not coming?  For you, the happy Googler, I truly hope this is a temporary "correction" in stock price.  However, I keep thinking that maybe you should take some money "off the table" and be rewarded for your efforts, just in case.