Category Archives: Just Jay

Last days of the world’s fastest ocean liner


On its inaugural voyage in 1952, the sleek S.S. United States set the record for an Atlantic crossing (3 1/2 days) and more than sixty years later, the record still stands.

The United States was the Concorde of its day: high tech, expensive, and luxurious, the fastest way across the ocean. Made of lightweight aluminum with R&D funded by the Department of Defense (since the United States could be converted into the world’s fastest troop ship.)


In June 1958,  my father, a career Army officer, was transferred to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) just outside Paris. We were to travel on the S.S. United States!

Right before departure, a general officer decided to fly instead of sail, and we were upgraded to First Class. Another military brat and I landed our own cabin. We went to see the movie Run Silent Run Deep four times. Burt Lancaster was aboard but we never got to talk with him.

By the way, our household furniture traveled with us, in two humongous crates stored in the hold.


I learned to eat in the First Class dining room of the S.S. United States. Caviar, squab under glass, beef Wellington, tornedos Rossini, sorbet. The waiters encouraged me to order everything I might want to try. I took them up on it.

One evening we had just sat down to dinner when the ship rolled 20 degrees starboard. Every plate on the tables crashed to the floor. Half the guests left immediately. The crew installed ropes along the halls and stairways so you could cling when the ship lurched back and forth violently.  North Atlantic storms are vicious.

No one saw this coming. Today we’d get amber alerts on our smartphones before hitting the bad weather.


Photo from The New York Times, October 9, 2015

The S.S. United States sailed its last voyage in 1969.  Various groups have tried to save it but they’ve run out of money. The S.S. United States will either be moored in concrete or, more likely, cut into pieces and sold for scrap.

Given a choice of speed or luxury, people opted for speed, and airplanes wiped out transoceanic cruises.

This is but one more example of technology knocking the stuffing out of an entire category, wiping out the best performers at the same time as the worst. Remember typewriters?



Airline madness


I’m writing this from the first class cabin on a United flight from Houston to Munich. We have been plied with champagne, prosciutto, steak, cheese, (had to pass on the salad and ice cream sundae courses), free-flowing wine, and cognac. I’m sitting in a comfortable wide seat that converts into a bed. You’d think I’d be a happy camper.

I’m not. I don’t like to deal with companies that employ bait-and-switch tactics to fool their customers. United is not alone in the airline industry; collusion sees to that. When it comes to marketing and meeting customer expectations, they are all stupid. Dumb as dirt.

The concept of market segmentation calls for differentiating groups of customers in order to appeal to the most profitable among them.

What other industry would take their most loyal, high-spending customers and single them out for shabby treatment? I’m thinking of airlines and Frequent Flier Miles.

Bait and switch
United awards frequent fliers with miles on future flights. Frequent flier miles are paying for most of this first-class flight from San Francisco to Mallorca and Athens with return via Istanbul. I’d amassed a third of a million miles, so I felt confident when I called United’s Mileage Plus to redeem them.

Oh, silly me. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone being told why I couldn’t fly on this flight or that, how my miles weren’t adequate for upgrading from economy on Lufthansa, and a host of blackout dates. By the time my itinerary was selected, I felt frazzled and kept repeating in my head “I am dealing with idiots.”

I ended up with an itinerary I would never have chosen for myself. “It’s the best we can do.” Depart San Francisco at 7:24 in the morning. (I prefer mid-morning departures.) Lay over in Houston for three hours. Fly to Munich and wait five hours for a flight to Palma. Then fly from Palma to Athens via Copenhagen (spending the night in the Copenhagen airport). Pay $1,200 out of pocket to upgrade my flight back to SFO (you can’t use frequent filer miles for that).

Frequent flier miles are a booby prize. They are funny money that doesn’t enable you to buy what you want.

Remember, this treatment is reserved for United’s best customers. You can’t determine what flights are eligible on the web, so you can’t plan your own itinerary. You have to talk with a human who looks things up and usually reports “that’s not available” or “maybe if you wait a month and call back” or “you’ll have to fly from Spain to Greece via Denmark.” Aggravation. Can I be the only person who feels deceived and cheated by this system?

This makes no sense to me. I’ll do everything I can to avoid flying on United ever again.

I tried to transfer miles for a friend since I don’t intend to use them. United offered to transfer enough miles to buy a $777 ticket for a fee of $1,200. Huh? It was the same story with Lufthansa, Air Canada, and a host of other airlines.

In sum, the marketing strategy of airlines seems to be: encourage your very best customers to join a program where you can piss them off. Well, guys, it’s working.

Customers Last
My fight today originated in San Francisco. I flew from SFO to Houston first class. Entertainment? Infomercials on a tiny screen. No music, no movies, no route maps, just crapola television.

Would you like something to drink? “A mimosa.” I might as well have asked for a sky-hook or a Quetzalcoatle.

The fellow behind me complained that his tray table was filthy. “Couldn’t they have cleaned this before we got on board?” The cabin attendance responded “Do you can me to call someone to clean it up?” The implication was that this would delay our departure. He made do with his dirty table.

United offers two types of service.

There’s domestic, which is bare-bones, no frills, trashy. Back in the cattle-car section, you have to pay fo food and more than likely it will be junk food, potato chips, and crap loaded with high fructose core syrup. (A cabin attendant once told me “I can’t believe we are doing this to people.”) Leg-room is so scarce I don’t understand how tall people fly.

There’s international, with plush seats, decent food, and free booze. Why the stark difference? Competition from foreign carriers who would never try to foist off lousy service.

United recently acquired another former competitor. Less competition means less incentive for United to provide decent service. They’ve got us over a barrel.

I believe in karma. In time, the present incarnation of United will die and be reborn as a dung beetle.

I’m sitting on the deck of a villa on the island of Mallorca. I plan to spent the next three weeks in bliss and reflection. No more vitriolic blog posts, just enjoyment of life.


The Cluetrain Manifesto in action

themanifestoSixteen years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto foretold the impact the Internet would have on companies’ relationships with their clients.  Some companies have yet to get the clue.

Excepts from the 95 Theses:

  • Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  • Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  • People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
  • There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
  • Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
  • In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business — the sound of mission statements and brochures —will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court
  • Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.


CIGNA insurance refused to pay for my drugs because it was the second time in a year I asked for a refill in advance because I was going on vacation.  The story is online.

Here are a few Tweets from yesterday evening. I had warned them and they blew me off anyway. These guys put their undocumented in-house policies ahead of human decency and common sense.

cigna10 cigna9 cigna8 cigna7 cigna6 cigna5 cigna4 cigna3




CIGNA called me this morning and said this shouldn’t happen to anyone. They are reviewing their policies. They are reviewing their internal procedures. They are sorry this happened.

Too bad they didn’t say that yesterday instead of telling me this was the way things were, policy is policy, and I would not be allowed to speak to a person higher up.

I’m off on vacation. I think CIGNA’s doing a little damage control.


Weird night vision, cause unknown

“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” Eric Raymond
The Cathedral and the Bazaar

I suffer from Pronoia, the belief that the world is conspiring to make me happy and successful, so I’ll ask the net if anyone has a clue as to what might be going on with this.

A week ago, walking the dark steps from the Internet Time Lab to my upstairs office, I sensed something wasn’t right. I soon realized that I was nearly blind in my left eye. The right eye was working fine,.

I just went outside. Here’s what I saw:


This only happens at night. My daylight vision is fine.

I visited my optometrist this afternoon. He is totally baffled. The problem is persistent and hasn’t changed much over the week since I first noticed it.


keenecardShame on Walter Keene. 

Monterey Car Week



Monterey Car Week 2015

Thursday morning we arrived at Ocean Avenue in Carmel just in time to catch the arrival of the cars in the Tour d’Elegance. These cars, that would participate in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, had driven from Monterey to Big Sur and back through Carmel where they park for a couple of hours to enable people to gawk. 

Carmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'Elegance

This fantastic array of cars included antiques such as Mercer, Stutz, Pope, Auburn, HIspano-Suiza, ancient Rolls-Royces, lots of Ferraris, blower Bentleys, Cunningham LeMans cars, Jags, Porsche Spyders, Alfa-Romeo race cars, and more. I walked among these beauties, talking with the occasional owner who wasn’t having lunch provided by the city of Carmel.

Carmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'EleganceCarmel Tour d'EleganceI’d visited the event before. Six years ago we rented a cottage in Carmel for the month of August that was only five blocks from the Tour route. Things have changed. This year’s Tour was overwhelmed with people. Too many of them. Weaving one’s way among the cars felt like being in the crowd leaving the stadium after a popular baseball game. The Concours de Carmel, two days earlier, is less crowded and lasts all day.  Concours d'EleganceThe streets of Carmel, well, they’re really lanes, are a show in themselves. Every other car is a Maserati, Lambo, or custom Porsche. Ferraris are so commonplace you get tired of them. I was sitting in a wine bar yesterday. Up pulled two McLarens, one  chartreuse right down to its wheels, the other an eye-popping neon lime green. To the front and read were custom Ferraris. Across the street, I talked with the owner of a Lambo Countach, his third Lamborghini. He’s driven the Countach 165 but usually tools along at 120. “Feels like 60 in a regular car,” he told me. Carmel Tour d'EleganceThat evening we tried to get into the Baja Cantina, a Mexican restaurant covered floor to ceiling in automotive memorabilia. Thousands of other people had the same idea. They parked on the highway up to a 1/4 mile away. The wait time for a table was three hours. The patio had a live band and shoulder-to-shoulder car enthusiasts. We bailed and had a great dinner at Cafe Rustica in Carmel Valley.  Monterey Car WeekEvery year sees new events. The Concorso Italiano and the Ferrari meet-up at the Barnyard Shopping Center are old timers. There’s also a fancy invitation-only show at the airport, The Motorsports Gathering at the Quail, Legends of the Autobahn, a Porsche-only show, and my favorite, the Concours deLemons, a show dedicated to automotive failures and oddities (Pinto with license plate Ka-boom!) Throw in half a dozen major auto auctions and countless private events. Here’s a list This is the largest gathering of exotic cars in the world. People are talkative during Car Week. All share the lingua franca of automobiles. I’m generally reserved, but I talked with more than 100 folks in four days. Friday we drove to Laguna Seca Raceway for the Rolex Motorsports antique car races. We walked into the paddocks, where six lanes of cars were being prepped to race. A couple of Bugatti 47s drove by, almost clipping us, on their way to the track. Then minutes later, we saw them racing. Laguna Seca  Laguna SecaThe noise made by a Ford muscle car or a Lola is unbelievably loud, especially if it sneaks up behind you and revs the motor instead of honking the horn to get you out of the way. I took out my hearing aids but the roar was still one of the loudest things I’ve heard in my life.   Watching race cars from the 50s and 60s is a gas, made even more pleasant by the margaritas and beer that are for sale on both side of the track. We came home dusty and sunburned; the races are fun but one day (of three) was enough. RetroAutoRetroAutoSaturday we drove along the 17 Mile Drive (free if you’re doing something related to Car Week) to the Inn at Spanish Bay. I picked up my Pebble Beach tickets at Will Call. The Inn is host to the free Retro Auto show, a group of vendors selling books, posters, models, car literature, neon signs, and event clothing. Out front was a beautiful custom Delahay and a gigantic Bentley convertible. The driver started up the Bentley for me to hear. He drives it daily. He gets 6 to 9 miles per gallon “but I’ve got a 50 gallon tank,” he said. Laguna SecaLaguna SecaI registered to bid in the Rick Cole auction, one of two remaining auctions with free admission. Convince them you’re a potential buyer and you get a pass. On the second floor of the Marriott was a showroom containing a beautiful red Maserati race car from the late 50s, a 300SL, a Delahay, numerous Ferraris and Lambos, comfortable seating, and an open bar. We didn’t make it to the other freebie, the Mecum Auction at the Monterrey Hyatt, where you can wander among hundreds of cars ready to go on the block. Sunday I put on my blue seersucker suit and a flashy yellow tie and boarded a shuttle bus from Carmel to Pebble Beach for the capstone event, the Concours d’Elegance. Twenty thousand people joined me there on the 18th hole green of the Pebble Beach golf course. We’d each paid $300 to ogle two hundred incomparable cars. Concours d'Elegance Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sterling Moss were in attendance but I didn’t see them. The weather was perfect, as it had been for our entire stay (this area is notorious for morning fog but we had none of it for four full days.)   Concours d'EleganceI began with the Duponts. I had never heard of the marque, so I asked a well-dressed fellow in a blue blazer and straw hat what the story was. Turns out I was talking with Peter Dupont. He explained that the cars were manufactured in Philadelphia at the beginning of the century. He owns three of them. Custom bodied, usually with a hood ornament of Lalique crystal. Amazing cars. Up next, a row of Dusenbergs and then historic cars from an Italian body maker. After a while, I came to a dozen Ferraris that had competed in the original Tour d’Elegance three decades ago; they all looked brand new. Monterey Car WeekConcours d'EleganceOn it went, past a half-dozen SS coupes (SS became Jaguar when the Nazis came to power with their SS, the Schutzstaffel.Schutzstaffel_SS.svg).  Invictas (I’d never heard of them.) The 300 SLR Mercedes in which Sterling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955. A gigantic Renault that was a gift to the president of Bolivia from the president of France; the fellow I was talking with brought it from La Paz. Three Cunningham LeMans cars. A Stutz Bearcat.  A Fiat Abarth that came in third in the competition that afternoon. A Moon. A gaggle of Alfa race cars. A rank of vintage Rolls Royces. So many cars, any one of which would draw a crowd under normal circumstances. Concours d'EleganceConcours d'Elegance

Concours d'EleganceConcours d'EleganceI bought a plastic flute of Moët Imperial for $25 to whet my whistle and went back to revisit my favorite cars. It was sunny and warm and after three hours, I was totally carred out. I walked out past the temporary exhibit halls of KIA, Tesla, Lexus, and Cadillac and caught the shuttle back to Carmel.   Here are the  winners. That evening, Uta and I headed back to the Baja Cantina, parked next to a gigantic Rolls from Ontario, and got a seat immediately. We pigged out on Mexican food and margaritas. When we got rolling Monday morning, the party was over. No more traffic jams in which half the vehicles were Italian exotics. Everyone had packed up and left. Car Week 2015 was over. Photographs of the cars are at We drove back to San Francisco via Highway 1 past fields of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, peas, strawberries and pumpkins. Ended up in Sebastopol to pick up the dogs and headed home. Monterey Car WeekMonterey Car Week

Imagining the internet. It’s what futurists do.

The 2014 Survey: Impacts of AI and robotics by 2025

A very good read. Opinions from all the hot shots. VInt Cerf, Jerry Michalski, Ben Schneiderman, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Tiffany Shlain, Stowe Boyd, JP Rangaswami, John Markoff, danah boyd, Doc Searles, and more.

My contribution was chopped to three sentences:

Jay Cross, chief scientist at Internet Time Group, responded, “The nature of work will change. Heaven only knows what comes after the service economy but it won’t be mass unemployment. Perhaps finally people will only need to work a few hours a day.”


Free form for self assessment and career development


Goals provide the motivation for self-directed learning. Writing down career goals makes it more likely you will attain them.

Participants in The Aha! Project asked for a structured way to go about self-assessment and goal-setting.

We developed this Learning Plan template to lead them through the process. Feel free to use it. If you have feedback, we’ll be glad to hear it.form

Learning Plan Template in pdf  |  Learning Plan Template in MS Word