New York Winter

I’m used to an electronic void for the climb out of the airport, but Jet Blue takes a different approach, embedding a small screen in the back of every seat so we continue to consume the satellite television we might normally leave behind for a few hours. Giving passengers access to information about a flight being forced to make an emergency landing in Ft. Lauderdale as we taxi down the runway getting ready for our own takeoff doesn’t seem like an exercise in confidence building, even though I soon put it out of my head as I flipped between MTV After Hours and a bad movie on Sci-Fi. I never quite got comfortable in my seat so I found myself fixating on the screen in front of Chris, sleeping in the seat next to me. I’d dimmed my screen in an effort to tune out and get a few hours of sleep prior to arriving in the city that never does but I couldn’t achieve the calm required to nod off for any sustained period. Instead the headline news ticker rolled by in an endless loop of silent information with little or no relevance to my surroundings at that moment.
There’s something unusual about taking a red eye flight at midnight Pacific Time arriving at JFK in New York shortly after sunrise to participate in the ritual rush hour traffic pouring into the city. This is my first time in New York and in my bleary-eyed state our arrival reminds me of driving into downtown Chicago (minus the drive through the tunnel under the East River). Thank someone for early check in and the opportunity to take a nap. If I weren’t spending most of my time covering the Search Engine Strategies conference, I’d be more excited about our hotel location, which is mere blocks from most of the major sites.

So far, the big conference takeaway for me was finding out about Blowsearch Secured Messenger, which is an encrypted instant messaging client with support for all the same IM clients Trillian covers without the bloat and behind the scenes development they’ve done that team did on less desirable IM products. Yahoo is officially 10 years old, which means the Web is on the verge of adolescence. To celebrate, Jerry Yang announced a bunch of open API stuff for developers, which is great if you understand Web programming and want to tie in local search, news, video, or images into your own Web pages. I’m going to see if I can’t find some way to tie the Yahoo video search into this site to help filter some of the better video content to the top when I get a chance to look more closely at the terms of service.
We got an icy blast of air from the observation deck of the Empire State Building last night, followed by some great Italian wine and pizza in at a place with a name I won’t even pretend to try and spell (forgot to grab a card). With any luck, I can squeeze in a couple more touristy events before we go, assuming the phantom snowstorm they promised for Monday night doesn’t resurface and deliver the 10 inches of snow we have the good fortune to miss out on. The cold weather has been a refreshing reminder of Iowa winters past, but I’m not going to miss it when I head back to the mid-40 degree temperatures of Seattle.
So far the Tablet is holding up, but I’m finding it frustrating to do any text composition when it’s not convenient to connect the USB keyboard. One Note remains great for freehand notes, but I can type much faster than I can hand write my thoughts on the screen. Strangely, the handwriting recognition seems to work best when my handwriting appears the worst on screen. If I concentrate too much on trying to write well, I end up spending more time fixing words. Shortly into my first day here, I realized I forgot to install Word before leaving, so I’m taking Open Office for a test drive. While I’m adapting to subtle nuances in the feature set that differ slightly from various shortcuts and characteristics I’ve grown accustomed to in Word, overall the text editing is just as good as the Microsoft flagship application. Microsoft may need to think seriously about dropping the price of a consumer version in the next release of Office or lose out on many users who will abandon Word for this free alternative. Having a built-in PDF creation option is especially nice, although the app isn’t Tablet PC friendly.