Well, if it hurts, you drive.

Abbott & Costello pretty much had the last word on renting cars, in their who’s-on-first-style routine on a company then known as Hertz U-Drive. As Lou says, “Well if it hurts to drive all over the country why should I drive and get hurt?”

Today we had the first major snafu of the journey, as Hertz DFW’s computers melted down, and the fancy automated system that usually results in my name being up in lights on a digital board was out of order. When we got to the rental center (which is miles away from the airport, for no good reason, just because that’s what Texas is like, miles of empty space between everything) the lines were out the door and we saw that the few Hertz employees were literally filling out rental agreements by hand at an incredibly slow rate. Thanks to the spiffy new computers, they don’t have nearly enough people working there to handle the loads when the computers break down, but there were still three Hertz employees sitting around in the manager’s office shooting the breeze despite the lines of angry customers out the door. Probably these were the employees who didn’t know how to do joined-up writing.

I had the sneaking suspicion that somewhere, on one of the screens on one of the computers in the Hertz office, an old DOS box had booted up with the clock battery burned out, and it was prompting the user to enter a date and time, and if there was just one person working for Hertz who could actually read, that person would have typed in the date on time on that old DOS box, which then would have booted up and the whole system would have come back. Just speculation.

Worse, every other car rental agency in the airport was fully sold out, presumably because so many Hertz customers gave up and jumped ship. We had no choice but to get a taxi to the hotel ($55), and now we’re stuck in the middle of Addison, north of Dallas, without a car, in the least pedestrian-friendly spot of the known universe.

We were counting on that car to get us to Austin tomorrow in time for the afternoon demo. Currently, my plan is to take a cab to the Addison branch of Hertz tomorrow first thing in the morning, where I have another reservation, fully expecting that they won’t have a car for me there, either, in which case, I think I’m going to have to buy a car, because Southwest Airlines is booked solid all day. I guess in a pinch I can always charter a jet ($4673).

Feh. It seems completely impossible that I won’t find some way to get to Austin tomorrow afternoon. Update: Got a car from the local Hertz office. Thanks for all the kind offers of rides!

Atlanta!

About 110 people came to the beautiful Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, and asked great questions. Some of the people I talked to in person had come from as far away as Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. It was especially cool to meet, in person, Terry Kearns, whom you know as “tk” on the discussion groups. Terry has been enthusiastic and supportive of Fog Creek since the very early days, and was always our best beta tester.

Downtown Atlanta is one of those places where, to put it politely, the sidewalks roll up at 5pm, so I was worried about finding a decent place to eat. I checked Yelp, which is fast surpassing Chowhound in usefulness, and found Room, which had opened recently, and happened to be right around the corner from our hotel, and had excellent food.

Gotta go catch the plane to DFW. Talk to ya soon!

 

Washington

The World Tour trudges along. Babak and I took the fast Acela train down to Washington DC and checked into the Crystal Gateway Marriott.

Nice turnout in Arlington today: about 150 people.

This Thursday, in Austin, at 5:30 Central Time, Jim and Ossie from NewTek are working on getting a live stream going so you can watch the demo as it happens. To get a high-speed internet connection in the meeting room, we have to pay the hotel an extra $100. After all the other hotel bills, that actually sounds kind of reasonable, believe it or not.

Anyway, the live stream is going to be in WMV (Windows Media) format. The URL for it will be here. A couple of days later I’ll get the flash version up if you have any problems with the stream or want to watch it later.

After the demo we managed to break the automated check-in machines at the Delta airlines check-in counter, trying to move to an earlier flight. Eventually a nice human at the counter straightened it out.

Now in Atlanta. See ya!

Another week…

This week’s travels: Arlington (outside Washington, DC), Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, and Boulder (outside Denver).

You can still sign up. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of getting everyone in, so don’t worry if you’re waitlisted… we’ll probably fit you in.

Thursday’s Austin event will be available on the internet, somehow, thanks to NewTek who will be bringing a TriCaster… a backpack-sized broadcast studio. Details to be announced.

Coming in November: Dublin, London, Cambridge, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. More details later this week.

Stop the catalogs

I remember in college trying to call the catalog companies to get them to stop sending me mountains of paper catalogs. It was futile. Most of them had no way of doing that, and even if you got off the list, you’d always find your way back on again two months later.

Catalog Choice (it’s a .org) contacts catalog merchants on your behalf and gets them to stop sending you catalogs. For free.

Great idea, excellent implementation (very nice Ajax UI and great graphic design), and I’ll let you know if it helps.

 

Outsmarting your airline

Last Friday, I was sitting at the San Diego airport, trying to figure out if my flight was going to be on time.

Of course, Continental thinks it will:

Being suspicious, I notice that there’s no plane at the gate.

Where is it?

Aha, looks like we’re waiting for flight 1726. Where’s that? I’ll check FlightAware:

Arriving 3:21. A bit later than the display at the gate is showing, and a total of 39 minutes late. And indeed, we took off almost exactly 39 minutes late.

Thanks to Joe Farrell for this idea.

Hello from San Francisco?

The FogBugz World Tour continues.

It was a beautiful weekend in the Bay Area: perfect weather, unusually clear skies, and no fog. Jared and I spent some time driving around Marin on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Monday’s demo in San Francisco had about 110 people:

This afternoon, Ben and I got a tour of the awesome offices at Pixar:

Steve Jobs’ office was, uh, kinda messy. Not Zen at all. Steve? Clean your office. Other than that, the public spaces are really incredible; a lot of people get private offices, but they’re kind of short on room so there are a lot of cubes, too (and daylight can be someone scarce in the main building).

The afternoon demo was in Emeryville, right across the bay from San Francisco, because Berkeley doesn’t have hotels. Here I am showing off the Developer Ship Dates feature in FogBugz 6.0:

Thanks to everyone who came!

California

You get your brand new iPod home, in its shiny black box, which you open, and the first words you see are:

“Designed by Apple in California.”

It’s printed on the back of every iPod and iPhone, too:

Ah, the way these five words evoke a flurry of happy memories.

You think of California, not the actual state, with its endless dismal boulevards full of muffler shops and donut stores, but the California of memory: the Beach Boys, the Summer of Love, and the beatniks, a utopian land of opportunity, an escape, where you go when you leave behind the cold winters and your conservative parents back in Cleveland.

And “Apple” in California is, of course, on the literal level, a computer company, and not a very nice one, but put those words together and you think of apple orchards, and the Beatles, and you think of how Forrest Gump got rich off of Apple stock. And “designed in California…” It’s not made. It’s designed. In California. Like a surfboard. Or a Lockheed XP-80.

And, of course, it might distract your attention from the fact that we no longer make things like this in America. We design them, but they pretty much have to be made in China.

Either way, the iPod slogan Designed by Apple in California triggers a flood of emotional responses that just make you happy to have selected this MP3 player.

Of course, Microsoft’s Apple Envy is so impossible to disguise that the back of the Zune says, “Hello from Seattle:”

Um… excuse me? Hello from Seattle? That has, I’m afraid, none of the same resonance. It evokes nothing. Boeing and rain, maybe. Kurt Cobain’s unhappiness.

But really it’s just a desperate desire to be like Apple, without even a smidgen of understanding of the culture code that makes Designed by Apple in California work. It’s not even clear that anyone at Microsoft would understand that there is such a thing as a culture code, although they are to be forgiven for not reading important books by French intellectuals. After all, they’re in Seattle and it’s raining.

Anyway, we already did “Hello.” “Hello” was charming once. In 1984.

Now it’s just old.

Back to California. I’m about to get on a plane and head out to the California of Fleet Week, the Blue Angels, the Castro Street Fair, and the 49ers. Not to mention the giant Italian Heritage Day Parade.

Next week Ben and I will bring the FogBugz World Tour to the bear state. We can still squeeze you in:

  • Monday – San Francisco – full, with a long waiting list
  • Tuesday – Emeryville – still room, reserve your place soon
  • Wednesday – Mountain View – full, with a short waiting list
  • Thursday – Los Angeles – full, but no waiting list so reserve a place and we’ll probably find room for you
  • Thursday – Irvine – full, with a long waiting list
  • Friday – San Diego – still a few places left; reserve your place soon.

If you’re coming to the event in Los Angeles, please note that it has been moved to the W in Westwood.