A list of musicians of some renown that I did not know were still active but are, and have gigs at the Foundry in Athens, Ga., this summer and fall

Shawn Mullins
Shuggie Otis
Drivin N Cryin
Denny Laine
Albert Lee
James McMurtry
Loudon Wainwright III
George Winston

Either the Foundry is a fascinating music venue, or the old rock n’ roll hands are going down fighting, or maybe I just need to get to a show more often. (I’m thinking a bit of all three.) Also, the Foundry is a pretty cool joint. Good choice by the UX STRAT folks and their sponsors for the happy hour there.

This is a roundabout way of noting that I’m speaking at the conference tomorrow, on the subject of customer experience and how to successfully embed the discipline within a product hierarchy. I’ll post a link to the video here or on Twitter if one becomes available. Very good conference, by the way—highly recommended if you’re a UX professional.

What I did this summer

It’s been quiet around here because I spent July recovering from my concussion and August catching up from a month of not working full speed.

That said, everything is great! I came out of the trauma fog in time to find lots of fun this summer, including a full 11 days of vacation, which I’d travelblog in this space in detail had we not basically repeated our trip from 2006 to great satisfaction. Shorthand version: Cape Ann; Bass Rocks Ocean Inn; Roy Moore Lobster Co.; Martha’s Vineyard; incredible car ferry reservation luck; Atria and Among the Flowers; Larry David’s ex-wife; ball in the yard with my two growing sons; beaches, starry nights, bunny rabbits, grasshoppers, jellyfish, three-year-olds eating salads, six-year-olds reading 200-page books in one day, an outdoor shower, a flat tire, two more trips to the local playground than we’d made in our previous nine Massachusetts vacations, and a single fish caught with a kids’ rod and reel for the second straight year. Oh, and lots and lots of ice cream. More like this, please.

Instead of just narrowing airline seats, charge for better ones, too

The Wall Street Journal’s expose on airlines narrowing coach-seat widths seems, to me, yet another market opportunity for the airlines, if only they’d position it correctly.

Now, I’m no advocate of skimpy seating. I want to travel in as much comfort as I can afford. But the key word there is afford. 

Consumers have continually shown that they have strong price sensitivity when they fly. This forces the airlines to keep their base fares low, which in turn forces them to find ancillary revenue sources. Upcharges for baggage, exit rows, and priority boarding are all designed to offset the cost of keeping airfares at competitive rates and aid profitability. (It’s working, too.)

So why not use this seating to their advantage? Selling more-hiproom seats in the same manner as more-legroom rows would undoubtedly prove profitable by servicing that segment of the policy (such as this author) that is willing to pay a small premium for an upgraded experience. If that extra seat in a nine-across row generates another $300 fare, having a handful of eight-across rows generating $40 per passenger in upgrade fees would be similarly profitable.

I do not look forward to my first 17-inch-wide airline seat. Here’s to hoping the more-space movement hits the front of the coach cabins on these planes sooner than later.

Travel evolution in the 21st century

Stuff I carried around Hong Kong as I explored on my first trip there, October 2000:

  • Map
  • Camera
  • Guidebook/phrase book 
  • Magazine (for reading while on trains, at lunch, etc.)
  • Handwritten sheet of destinations
  • Nokia 8290 cell phone
Stuff I carried around Hong Kong as I explored last week:
  • iPhone

The year in cities, 2011

For the seventh consecutive year I’m chronicling in this space the places I visited over the past 12 months. Per the annual rules, only overnights are listed; repeat visits are denoted with an asterisk, and places visited prior to this year–all of them, it seems–get a dagger. (Hat tip to Jason Kottke, who seems to have given up on this, although I still enjoy doing it.)
New York, NY *† (home base)
Lake Buena Vista, FL †
Orlando, FL †
Livingston, NJ *†
New City, NY *†
San Diego, CA †
Boston, MA †
Palm Beach Gardens, FL †
In short, between the little guy and the hands-on nature of work this year, I really didn’t go anywhere. We’ll see if 2012 produces more exploration.

Also, the Padres are out of town

Ai and Canopy at IRCE, on the Ai blog.

We are gearing up with excitement for this year’s Internet Retailer Conference and Expo. Canopy CEO (and erstwhile Ai director of strategy, and, well, yours truly) David Wertheimer will be giving his live website critiques for the fourth time, and Ai and Canopy have a large and gorgeous expo floor booth in the works.

This gives Amy and me exactly 32 days to brace her for a week of single-motherhood with a 10-week-old. (I also traveled when Nate was 11 weeks old and cried like a baby–me, not him–when I left for the airport.)

Tweeting from Sydney

Just because I don’t have an active mobile phone Down Under doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking in 160-character snippets all week. Herewith, my observations en masse from my strolls around Sydney.

I thought I was doing well with my jetlag. Then I fell asleep in bright sun on the Sydney harbor ferry
Any lingering doubts locals had re my port of call were likely abolished by my walking around eating an egg sandwich at 3:30 in the afternoon
Trying to figure out the price index of this town. Some purchases are shockingly expensive
As far as I can tell, 100% of the people in Sydney are nice.
All this David Foster Wallace is making me want to write. Which is a great thing, so long as I don’t compare myself to him
Taronga Zoo: all that. Australian animals are a trip
Remember the good old days when nobody locked a wifi signal?
Loved dinner at Fratelli Paradiso. Great food, welcoming service, nice Monday night vibe. The kind of place where you talk to neighboring diners and swap restaurant suggestions (New York for him, Sydney for me) with your waiter. Left with a romantic bounce in my step.
Every time I hear it I become more convinced that the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” is the perfect rock ‘n roll song.
Belgian hot chocolate at the Chocolate Room, notable mostly because the nincompoop concierge at the Four Points told me to go to a Starbucks
Got the hang of the time change. Say good morning to my family, go to sleep. Wake up in the morning, tuck them into bed. Easy!
Max, the TV music station in Australia, plays a remarkable amount of Bon Jovi.
Calling the cafe at 485 Crown St “4ate5” is a stroke of genius obviousness
People said “good news, the Aus dollar is down vs. the U.S.” What they didn’t mention is that Australian CPG prices are often double what I’m used to paying. $3 for a 20 oz. Coke is normal here
Fraser Suites is a grand place to stay. Heart of CBD, big one-bedroom layout, four closets, full kitchen. There’s even a washer-dryer (which I’m not using… but my wife would)
Confirmed: everyone in Sydney is nice.
Online Retailer conference has been great. Meeting lots of good folks. Even pulled off a tweetup
Anyone know where I can buy some Tim Tams?

Travelblog: Sydney

G’day! No one much says that, of course, but seeing as I’m in Sydney, it’s the appropriate way to start my post about Australia’s biggest city, where I arrived Sunday morning (local time) in advance of the Online Retailer conference, where I’ll be speaking later this week.
Sydney is, from what I’ve seen, a bit of a hidden city. One has to be willing to venture out of the central and tourist districts, to meander down quiet streets, go to secondary neighborhoods, and put effort into one’s visit in order to make something of it. For those who don’t try, plenty of shops exist that will charge $4 for a bottle of water. Look deeper, though, and a world of welcoming delights awaits.
I have had my best meals in out-of-the-way locations: at a little cafe off the main street of Mosman, an upper-middle-class enclave in North Sydney, near but not convenient to the Taronga Zoo; at Fratelli Paradiso, a highly regarded Italian restaurant that is nevertheless way at the end of Potts Point, far from transit and hubbub; at a little chocolate joint on the cusp of Chinatown, so hidden in plain sight that my concierge didn’t know about it. (More on that in a minute.)
Point being, you don’t come to Sydney and ride the stupid Monorail from Darling Harbor into the center of town. You come here to poke around. To be on the water. To insist on a level of curiosity one step beyond the simplicity that gracious Sydney residents will otherwise afford you, thinking you really don’t want to putz around in Potts Point, so why even mention it?
This philosophy works almost anywhere, from New York (where you can have pasta at the Olive Garden… or Babbo) to Paris–certainly Paris–but unlike those cities, Sydney doesn’t have a lot of touristy crap going for it. The world’s classic cities have to-see lists a week long. Sydney, on the other hand, has a fabulous harbor and a show-stopping opera house, and not much else from a casual sightseeing standpoint. Come to Sydney, and people expect you to promptly leave Sydney, to take day trips to the mountains or the beaches or the outback.
To run out of town is to deny Sydney its charms, though. So far, every single person I’ve met has been friendly, welcoming and gracious. Locals are quite proud of their city, its beautiful clean water, its views, its Thai food. So when you get here, go for it! Ask locals where to eat, where to walk around, what to see. When they tell you to just plop down at one of the cafes in front of Circular Quay, tell them you know you can do better, and see what comes up. Deep in those recommendations will be the 160-year-old pub with a to-die-for rooftop that you should be visiting.
End prologue. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
I have spent the past two nights at the Four Points Sheraton Darling Harbour, which is about as good as my Starwood points and $45 per night gives me the right to expect. (One would think I’d learned my lesson, but I guess not.) The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable enough, if dinged by the expensive and spotty and non-wifi in-room Internet access. Most regrettable are the concierges, who sent me to the aforementioned cafes on Circular Quay and, when I balked, had the gall to present as an alternative a restaurant that proudly advertises “no meal over $10”; and who, the next night, when asked where to get some dessert and coffee, could only think of a Starbucks. In Sydney, where Starbucks gave up in 2008. After two days, I could be a better local guide than these guys.
Also, while I thought Darling Harbour would be a prime location, it’s really not much of anything, although it’s walking distance from Chinatown, which led me to a great noodle joint my first night here, where the two local women at the table next to me took control of my menu and ordered me a delightful array of dumplings and chow fun that was precisely twice as much food as I could have eaten.
Speaking of food. Fratelli Paradiso for Italian. Avenue Road Cafe for breakfast or lunch or coffee in Mosman. The Chocolate Room for, well, y’know. All delightful, and I have five more days of eating to do.
As for sightseeing, the harbor is truly gorgeous on a sunny day, and all of one’s efforts should go into finding places to stare at it from various vantage points. I plan on crossing the main bridge at some point (although I don’t see the benefit of the $350 stair climb to the top of the beams). The Taronga Zoo is a treat, particularly the walk-in section that allows poorly thought-out attempts to pet leery kangaroos. My experiences with the central district are mostly my wandering around, but the Rocks and the area surrounding the opera house are great places to do just that.
From what I can tell, my conference schedule will allow me two full days of sightseeing before I head back to New York. I’m very much looking forward to them.

The year in cities 2009

For the fifth year in a row I’m chronicling in this space the cities where I spent time in the past year. Per Jason Kottke’s rules only overnights are listed; repeat visits are denoted with an asterisk. I’ve also put a dagger next to cities that I’ve visited in years past–to date, I only starred cities where I stayed twice in the same year.
New York, NY *† (home base)
Miami Beach, FL †
Puerto Moreles, Mexico
Livingston, NJ *†
New City, NY *†
Arlington, VA *
Boston, MA
Gloucester, MA
Madison, WI *
Hawley, PA
Edgartown, MA †
West Tisbury, MA
Milwaukee, WI
Chicago, IL †
Palm Beach Gardens, FL †
Interestingly, despite many trips to Massachusetts, I don’t recall having specifically stayed overnight in Gloucester or Boston before this year. And the rest of those daggers suggest I’m quite the creature of habit.