DIA In & Out Parking Policy Needs Work

$2! I want my $2!

It’s snowing and very cold in Denver today. Perfect day for air travel. So, I arrive a bit early and start scouting for spots in the parking ramp. After a good bit of searching, I throw in the towel and head outside to the economy lot.

Naturally, I have to go through the pay booths so I can exit the covered parking and circle around to go into economy. I roll up to the booth, hand the cashier my ticket and she says: “$2, please.”. Ahem. What? $2 to look? How long have I been in there? “11 minutes.” And how long am I allowed? “!0 minutes.” You must be kidding. I pay the toll to the troll (the only other option being to drive through the gate Duke Boys-style) and exit.

Now, I understand why you’d have a 10 minute policy, but on a day like today when the ramp will be packed and there will be a lot of travelers searching with no success, you’d think DIA would flex a little.  Good gravy.  It’s only $2, but still.

Yammer: Hanging Out at the ol’ iWater Cooler

For about a year now my company has been using a social networking tool called Yammer.  Yammer describes the service as “enterprise microblogging”, but it’s basically a secure, private Twitter that an organization can use internally.  Yammer’s home page currently claims 40,000 companies use the service.  Like Twitter, each user can build a short profile about themselves, then shoot out little messages to everyone in their network (e.g. your company) regarding what they are doing or thinking including the ability to attach a file to the message.  There’s a way to subdivide the Yammer network into smaller groups (e.g. a group for office A and another for office B) so folks with common interests can communicate without everyone getting potentially unwelcome information.  Messages can be generated and viewed using an Adobe AIR-based client, a Blackberry or iPhone app or through a web browser.  There are other features, but these are the big ticket items.  In generally, it’s a well designed service.

I use Twitter in my personal network and mostly I get random messages from friends about their children’s strange behavior, plans for the coming weekend, current weather and so forth.  My own messages almost always fall within this same garden variety.  If you look at typical Twitter traffic, it’s essentially electronic chit chat.  How is Yammer traffic different?  By and large it isn’t and that’s precisely its value.  In today’s modern business place where employees often work remotely, by choice or due to travel, the proverbial water cooler conversation has largely disappeared.  For some businesses in particular (such as consulting) or in segments of businesses (such as sales), employees can be especially isolated from one another.  Tools like Yammer provides a way of maintaining a personal connection between far flung team members.  And that connection isn’t always idle conversation or gossip.  Often times, great ideas are generated or big problems solved by the casual hallway meeting that is increasingly uncommon.  An unlike regular instant messaging, many people can listen in and join the conversation, just like that hallway meeting.

My experience with Yammer has also shown that it’s a useful tool for:

  • disseminating information about what’s going on in the organization (“Hey! Didja hear we just won this deal with such and such new client?”),
  • quickly reaching out with a question to many colleagues via a channel that’s not as busy as e-mail (and which is logged away for future reference by everyone in the company) and
  • for simply sharing person tidbits.

It’s an impersonal way of making personal connections, if that makes sense.  There are people I only know on Yammer because they live in Seattle or some other city, but their personalities and interests show through across the Internet based on the comments they make and the way they make them.  It’s a little weird, but wonderful at the same time, because I’d not know them at all if it weren’t for my use of Yammer.

So, I like Yammer, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer that much of the basic functionality (if not all) could be recreated using direct competitor Present.ly, DIY social networking offerings such as Ning (which is more than messaging), the ageless Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or even Twitter (one can have a private account, you know).  You can even make your own with open source package StatusNet.  There are many options.  So it’s not so much the tool I like, but the idea.  I’m enamored with this type of communication capability, regardless of how you achieve it.  If you work in an organization where face-time is ever decreasing, you might want to strongly consider rolling-out a capability like this.

Want more?  Here’s a nice compilation of similar services from Mike Brevoort.

Jason Mraz @ Red Rocks

On the evening of Saturday 19.Sep.09, Julie and I made our first trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater to take in the Jason Mraz show.  We’ve lived in Colorado for 11 years, yet we’d never been to this world renowned venue.  Shame on us… it’s truly one of the coolest, most spectacular gathering places in the world.  More on that later.

Julie had bought the tickets off Craiglist for this sold-out show as a wedding anniversary gift for the pair of us.  At the time, I wondered: what the hell is she thinking?  They were expensive and my perception of Mraz was one of teenie bopper, highly produced, pop schlock (i.e. not really my thing).  The guy owns the record for most weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 for the single “I’m Yours“.  If that isn’t an indictment, what is?  I began to wonder if I knew what I was talking about when I offered a Facebook update about my concert plans the morning of the show and promptly received some very positive responses from a number of unexpected sources.

Turns out, I was indeed wrong.  Mraz is a true talent.  I really enjoyed the show from the introductions by MC Billy “Bushwalla” Galewood through Somali / Canadian opening act K’Naan and on into the main event.  Mraz had a horn section, keyboards and a couple different percussionists in addition to a three man guitar section which includes himself.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the set that evening was pretty heavy in tunes from his current CD (I had listened to “We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things” only once before going to the show).  But he mixed in some other stuff including a cool version of the Seals & Croft song “Summer Breeze” (I say cool because the original was pretty… umm… uncool).  Mraz kept the chit-chat with the crowd to a minimum and instead he and the band focused on cranking out great music.  I was thoroughly impressed and so was Julie.  It is supremely unusual for us to like the same sort of music. After all these years together, could it be we’re starting to rub-off on one another to create some sort of bilateral, mutually moderating influence?  Or something like that.

Julie sucking down a Starbucks & me grinning painfully

Julie sucking down a Starbucks & me grinning painfully

Maybe some of it was the location.  Red Rocks is really a special place.  From the natural surroundings to the great acoustics and the amazing views looking up at about 9,000 people from our great seats in the 20th row. All of it was memorable and worth the expense and hassle of a live concert.  For years, I had been to very few shows and those I had attended were for smaller acts in smaller venues.  I’d grown tired of the traffic, the drunk kids and poor sound quality.  If I wanted the sound of live music, I’d buy a live recorded CD and skip the rest.  Getting old, I suppose, but I feel much the same way about live sports.  However, I will absolutely go to another show at Red Rocks and it certainly won’t take a decade for it to happen.

But, as tempting as it may seem, I would not take a kid to Red Rocks for their first (or even 10th) live concert.  Not that they wouldn’t enjoy it.  No, I’d avoid it because the kid would be ruined for life when it comes to venues.  I’d grown up catching shows in sterile, boring places like the Bismarck Civic Center, the Bison Sports Arena on NDSU’s campus and the long departed Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, MN.  Red Rocks is spectacular and nothing short of a classic, mega arena (i.e. pro football stadium) could ever eclipse a show at Red Rocks.  And even then it might not beat Red Rocks.

Trillian Astra

It’s been a while since I wrote about a web service or product, so I thought I’d take a moment to put something out there about Trillian Astra.  Astra is the latest incarnation of a multi-protocol instant messenger (IM) client from Cerulean Studios.  I started using the original Trillian client several years ago when I got tired of managing multiple IM clients to connect with AIM, Y! Messenger, MSN Messenger (now Live Messenger) and private IRC chat rooms.  I discovered Trillian 3.1 and was immediately smitten by its ability to work with all these services while consuming as much computing resource as just a single client.  I was so impressed that I eventually paid to upgrade to the Trillian Pro version.  While there were a few additional features in Pro, I can’t remember what they were (integration with Google Talk?).  I upgraded to Pro because Cerulean Studios earned their $25 (and then some) for creating such a great product.

Fast forward to the fall of 2007 when Trillian began Alpha testing for its new Astra platform.  I immediately signed up to help test and I haven’t looked back.  While Astra has added additional plug-ins for newer social network services such as Facebook and Twitter (you can see FB status updates and Tweets as they are generated by your friends), the big feature is a browser-based client in addition to the locally installed client.  While most of the services already offer this to their users, it was a big advancement for Cerulean Studios to offer such a “works wherever you can get an Internet connection” type solution.  The browser client looks very much like the local client and their servers hold copies of your connections, buddy lists and so forth so you can IM on the go, even if you’re on another person’s PC.  Very handy.

I highly recommend Trillian and if you use more than one IM service, give it a shot as I think it’s the best solution amongst its group of competitors.

Churchill Cup Recap

Earlier this summer (Sun 21.Jun.09 to be exact) I found myself soaking up some rays and watching rugby at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.  The Churchill Cup had come to town and how could I miss a triple header finals day? Long time readers of OpenKimono will recall I’ve written about rugby in the past and that I’m a big fan of the game.

Dave at Dick's

Dave at Dick's

Rugby still doesn’t gather the interest in the US it should: my buddy Todd and I were able to walk up to the ticket counter and snare a pair of seats about 15 rows up from the pitch at midfield.  $40 apiece.  Inside, it was evident a sell-out of this relatively small 18,000 seat stadium wasn’t going to happen that day even though the matches featured:

Although none of the Tri Nations big boys from the southern hemisphere (AUS, NZL, RSA) or the Six Nations national sides from Europe (ENG, FRA, IRE, ITA, SCO, WAL) participated, it was still international rugby and far better than I’d ever seen in person.

The CAN / ARG match was fast paced and chippy.  The Argentine side didn’t look all that big (I saw them up close after the match), but they were all fast and kicked with precision.  I suppose this is where all the soccer players that get too many red cards end up.  They pulled away in the second half and won by a couple tries.

The ENG / IRE match was just plain brutal.  I don’t think those guys like each other much, although I imagine a lot of the players are teammates on professional club sides in the UK.  It was pretty even the first half, but in the second, the Irish rolled and practically scored at will.  This doesn’t bode well for England’s future in the bigger competitions.

By the time the USA / GEO match was finally ready to go, we’d had enough.  Sun burned and nauseous from beer and nachos, we packed it in and skipped the last match which I found out later USA had taken with ease.  The USA is coming on as a Sevens power, but still struggles to put forth a solid full side, thus the 13-31 score really speaks to how far Georgia needs to come to compete on the world stage.  Still, as of this moment, they sit above the USA in the IRB World Rankings.  Go figure.

Soooo…. what’s the point of this post?  Could one not gather this same info from the good folks at Scrum.com?  Surely.  But you’d miss my little editorial about how the American rugby community, while small, is enthusiastic.  We sat next to a fellow that was about my age and his father.  After a bit of small talk, it was evident both of them had played in their younger years and the game was a common thread between them.  They were having a great time, talking trash, talking strategy.  Pretty cool to see that in this country.  Later, as I was walking the pavilion to get an adult beverage, I was flagged down by a South African guy.  He spotted me in my Springboks jersey and had assumed I was an import like himself.  We chatted for a while, talking a bit about South Africa and rugby in general.  It was evident he was pleased to find a fan of his national team half a world from home.  And I enjoyed reconnecting with a sports culture that draws out national pride unlike anything in the USA aside from the minority of soccer fans in the country cheering for our side to qualify for World Cup 2010.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to rugby 15 years ago, and soccer more recently, because it’s a world game unlike American football.  In most of the English speaking world, you can find someone able to have a beer and talk about rugby.  That’s very appealing to me as I truly enjoy being part of the larger world.