Monthly Archives: March 2011

A New Job! It Means a Lot.

Imagine: An IFE that actually works, all the time!

About a year and a half ago, a few weeks after I learned that American was not renewing my consulting contract, I tucked a fortune from a Chinese cookie into my wallet. It read “Good things come to those who wait. Be patient.” I kept it, and from time to time, it would peek out from behind my driver’s license. The tiny sheet is now rumpled, and I think I can throw it in the wastebasket, because the fortune has come to pass.

On March 1, I started a new job with Intelligent Avionics, a startup company based in the UK, that is building AURA, a next-generation inflight entertainment (IFE) system for airlines and private jets. My role as VP, The Americas, is sales in the Western Hemisphere, and I’ll also help build the AURA brand worldwide.

It will be a classic David vs. Goliath battle. We have slingshots, and are up against two entrenched incumbents, Panasonic and Thales, that have 90% of the market, But AURA is far, far better, for four major reasons: 1) ultra lightweight, to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions; 2) more reliable (it has no heavy, failure-prone server, but intelligence – like a netbook – in each seat unit); 3) lower ownership cost across system life; and 4) it will deliver happier passengers (by not failing mid-flight, and by being easy and intuitive to use). There are at least eight more reasons, but I’ll save the selling for later!

As millions of Americans know, being out of work is really, really hard. Even for someone like me with skills, experience, and a network, finding a job has been a challenge. I’m not a whiner, but age discrimination reared its ugly (and stealthy) head in three or four cases. A pox on them! I am enormously grateful that my new boss, Martin Cunnison, understood that someone with my skills and experience might be useful to his new enterprise. He is a prince!

Dollars – pounds converted to greenbacks, in this case – are welcome, but having work is much more than a paycheck, and without a job you understand what you miss – daily, clearly, and often painfully. As I have written in many contexts on this blog, humans have a profound need to belong, and I now belong to Intelligent Avionics (just peeked at new business cards in my pocket and gave thanks to God and to Martin). Being on a team, even a team that spreads across the world from Texas to Europe to Australia, and that has never been in the same place (that will happen next week) is just a wonderful thing. Woo hoo!

The new gig is also satisfying because deep down I am a second-generation salesman. My dad sold women’s gloves and accessories across the Upper Midwest for decades, and though he was not well rewarded, he was good at it. He taught me at least three things to carry forward in selling AURA. First, and most important, you can’t sell what you don’t believe or trust. Second, numbers are important. Third, it’s not just about quantities and costs and markups, but about relating to your prospects and your customers in a human and authentic way.

There are a few more things to like and for which to give thanks. Because it’s a small company, all of us get to do a lot of different things, and variety is always good. Small also means no bureaucracy, and that is such a delightful contrast from two decades with a large company that stocked a lot of red tape. Working in high-tech is pretty cool – there’s a lot to learn about the technical aspects of the devices and installation on aircraft, but that’s part of the fun. Tangibility is cool, too. I had a few airline sales jobs in the 1980s and though they were good, you never really got to hold the product in your hand, or, for that matter, have some real input into how to improve it. Lastly, of course, I will be selling into an industry, the business of getting people together quickly, safely, and reliably, that I know and love.

So in coming posts, you’ll learn a little more about our AURA and how we’re faring in the marketplace. Next stop, April 2-8, is Hamburg, and AURA’s launch at the big Aircraft Interiors Expo. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you’re curious, take a look at our website, www.aurainflight.com.

A fat ride: AURA's solution for First Class

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To Europe, But First to a Birthday Party

Spring blooms in the Netherlands

Linda and I flew to Washington on Friday morning the 4th, headed up to Dylan’s third birthday party. Robin, Dylan, and Carson picked us up at Dulles, and in no time Nana and Pots (that’s us!) were helping with party prep. My role was hanger of crepe-paper streamers. Check and done, pink and purple across living- and dining-room ceilings. The party theme was ballet, and we had tutus for all, too (say that five times, quickly). At four, the girls began arriving (although Dylan has a number of male friends, the theme would have made it a bit awkward for them). It became a bit chaotic, but there were moms and a couple of dads on hand, plus us grandparents. Two teenage ballerinas arrived, and the tots were totally enthralled. Then it was time for pizza, then they were gone, and the clean-up crew (us) went to work. Dylan opened her presents and pretty much collapsed from fatigue, as did we. Here are some scenes:




Sister Carson (nearly 1) also enjoyed the party!

Was up at six Saturday morning, out on the folding bike that I keep at their house, a couple of miles on city streets, then onto the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (a former railroad right-of-way, described last November), east toward the city. I rode through backyards, across wetlands, through downtown Vienna, Virginia, and back. A good workout. At nine, Brett, Dylan, and I piled in the car and drove into Washington, to the National Air and Space Museum. I had not been there in several years, and it was fun to wander with Dylan, who, as I have mentioned, likes things that fly. High point of the morning was a concert in a museum gallery by a kids’ rock band called Rocknoceros. As soon as they started, kids jumped up and starting shaking and grooving. Dylan is sometimes shy, but she hopped up 15 minutes into the show. Big fun. Back home, short nap, more playtime with the tots, then out to dinner.

Dylan in front of the Wright Brothers' invention

Daddy and daughter enjoying Rocknoceros

It was such a joy to be there for Dylan’s birthday. I was reminded of the importance of “being there” a few days earlier, when I read a touching essay in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. The writer lost her grandma early, and she related her current thinking:

It’s with bitter sweetness that I watch my own three kids, 6, 5 and 1, glow in the presence of their grandparents. They can’t wait to call them with news of their latest achievement and they look forward to evenings when Grandma will tuck them in and Grandpa will tell them stories.

One day soon, this glow will be reserved for things other than grandparents – friends, driving, going out. Grandparents will become the people whom they obligingly kiss on the cheek and hug goodbye, whom they censor their tales around and who always ask them about school.

It won’t be until years later that they look back at their grandparents and remember those feelings they once had. Maybe it won’t be until they have children of their own and come face to face with their own mortality. Only then will they realize the short window available for grandparents.

Dylan's regard for maps is a joy for this scribe and geographer!

Was up again at six Sunday, but a pelting cold rain kept me from a bike ride. At ten, Brett drove me to the Metro, hopped it to National Airport, flew to Chicago, then on to Brussels. Had some nice T-t-S moments with my seatmate Erika, a Swedish lawyer turned businesswoman, working for Boston Power, a leader in lithium-ion batteries for a range of applications. Always a treat to sit next to a nice, and interesting, person.

Landed in Belgium at a bit after seven, on a sunny day. Zipped through the airport and onto a train into Brussels. I had 40 minutes until my connecting train to Rotterdam and on to Delft, so I took a little amble from the central station to the famous square called the Grand Place (or Grote Markt in Flemish). Took some photos and walked back, only to find that the 09:22 train was canceled. Waiting for the 10:22 train, had a nice T-t-S moment with a Dutch airline pilot now working for Delta and living in Greenville, South Carolina. A good fellow.

Grand Place / Grote Markt, Brussels

Above Grand Place

Arrived Delft at 12:30, and walked a kilometer north to the Aerospace Engineering Department of the Technical University Delft. It was my first visit to “TU,” and my first time speaking to aero engineering students. I met my host, a young Dutchman, Frank van der Zwan, and we zipped to the student cafeteria for a quick lunch, then into the classroom to speak to about 40 Master’s students about the challenges of the airline industry. At 3:40, I peeled off and headed to Rotterdam and across town to my hotel. It took awhile, and as soon as I got to my room I turned round and headed back to Delft for dinner (Frank and I agreed we should have planned the venue better, since he lived much closer to my hotel). I had not been into the historic center of Delft for several years, but I remembered my way from the train station to the Markt, the main square, where I met Frank in front of De Waag, a wonderful pub and restaurant in the historic weighing-house (knowing the mass of agricultural produce was a historically important town function). We had an exceptional fish dinner, and some really wonderful sweets for dessert, plus a couple of Grimbergen beers, brewed since 1128 in an abbey across the border in Belgium.

Dinner conversation ranged across a bunch of topics, including some recent innovations in Frank’s department, for example, the combined metal and plastic material that is the “skin” of the Airbus A380. Frank also knew quite a bit about Delft, historically a well-to-do trading and agricultural center, and the traditional seat of the House of Orange, the royal family of The Netherlands. It was a fine time, but by 8:15 I was ready for pajamas, so we walked back to the station and went separate ways.

Rotterdam skyline, from my hotel window; flattened by the Nazis in 1940, the rebuilt city profile looks like the New World.

Next morning I caught up on work, and at 11:00 met a new host at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, Bram van den Burgh. A young (Flemish) Belgian from Antwerp, he had been at the school only about 18 months, with research focused on consumer behavior. We grabbed a quick lunch and it was time to stand a deliver my talk on airline advertising to an audience of about 50 Master’s of Marketing students. Like a day earlier, I had the luxury of two hours, which was great.

Statue of Rotterdam scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) on the campus of the university that bears his name

After the talk, I answered several students’ career questions, walked back to the hotel, changed, and hopped on the Metro, riding to a suburban station and getting on the NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the national railway) for an ten-minute ride to Gouda, the city famous for cheese of the same name. It was the second sunny day in a row, as far as I could recall a first in nearly 40 years of traveling in Holland.

Parking lot, Gouda railway station; there's talk about energy conservation, and there's Dutch action!

I first visited Gouda in 2007, and new the basic layout of the historic center. Back then, I was recovering from broken ribs and a small pelvis fracture, and the walk from the station and around town was slightly painful. This time it was great, with bounce in step. I circled the large square, the Markt, admired the town hall and other buildings from the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th Century. Did a couple of zigzags down side streets and canals, snapped some pictures in the soft light of late afternoon. Here are a few scenes from that era:

I headed back to the main square for a beer at the Hotel van Zalm. The waiter brought me a dubbel, a dark sweet beer from Belgium; like the night before, it was brewed in an Abbey, in Affligen, and the monks had been working on the product even longer, since 1074. Nice. I would have been happy to linger in the old bar, but I had some calls to make, so headed back toward Rotterdam.

It was nearly dusk, but the diked fields glowed green. To the left of the tracks, white swans swam in the watery “lanes,” and to the right dozens of ewes, plump with lamb-children, munched the grass. The scene could have been from 1611, not 2011, and I was again reminded of my fondness for this kingdom, first visited four decades earlier on my first trip to Europe. It’s such a civil and humane place. On the train, I was reminded of a great article about the Netherlands from The New York Times in 2009; the U.S. author offered a sympathetic look at the Dutch welfare state, and explained its origins, as in this passage:

Water also played a part in the development of the welfare system. To get an authoritative primer on the Dutch social-welfare state, I sat down with Geert Mak, perhaps the country’s pre-eminent author, to whose books the Dutch themselves turn to understand their history. The Dutch call their collectivist mentality and way of politics-by-consensus the “polder model,” after the areas of low land systematically reclaimed from the sea. “People think of the polder model as a romantic idea” and assume its origins are more myth than fact, Mak told me. “But if you look at records of the Middle Ages, you see it was a real thing. Everyone had to deal with water. With a polder, the big problem is pumping the water. But in most cases your land lies in the middle of the country, so where are you going to pump it? To someone else’s land. And then they have to do the same thing, and their neighbor does, too. So what you see in the records are these extraordinarily complicated deals. All of this had to be done together.”

That last phrase, “all of this had to be done together,” stuck in my mind. The full article, well worth a read, is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03european-t.html.

I was tired and I needed to be up really early the next day, so grabbed dinner in the hotel and clocked out before 9:30.

The alarm went off at 4:45, out the door just after five. The revised plan dropped the €35 taxi ride to the airport in favor of a $2-equivalent zip on the Metro and bus. I had the vectors, and all was smooth until just after six, when things started wobbling badly. I followed the station signs for the bus to the airport, which was only about a mile west. Outside, a sign in Dutch said that the buses were not stopping there, but across the highway in the park-and-ride lot. That one was easy to translate. Across the road, the next temporary sign, below the permanent bus stop sign and handy schedule, was impossible to figure. I could only understand the date, December 2010, but I couldn’t figure anything else, and worried that the airport shuttle was suspended. The bus was to arrive at 6:07. At 6:15, 50 minutes before my flight, I had a mild panic, and set off west, but map-less, in the direction of the airport. I got about 200 meters when the shuttle bus came into view. Whew! Rotterdam airport is quite small (most of the play is 30 miles north at Amsterdam Schiphol), and I was at the gate by 6:30 and landed at London City Airport by 7:10. Maybe I shouldn’t try to be so thrifty, I thought.

Hopped on the Tube, changed onto a totally crammed train, and by 7:45 was gazing up at the north face of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Regular readers know that it is my “home” church in London, and it was so good to be directly beneath the dome that morning for Ash Wednesday services (I had last attended them there in 2005). There could be no better proof that Britain has become almost wholly secular than the fact that fewer than 50 people gathered for the 8:00 imposition of ashes and communion. There was no musical accompaniment, but we joined the bishop (who wore a crisp white miter and purple vestments) in the liturgy. We faithful “signed up” for 40 days of prayer, penitence, and service, which seemed to be to be a sensible thing to do.

I got back on the Tube and rode north quite a ways, past Hampstead Heath, to my hotel in the Golders Green district (thrift again: I wanted to save my hosts at the London School of Economics some pounds). Turned on the charm, hoping the front-desk clerk, wearing a “Trainee” badge, would check me in early. Nope, she proposed a £50 early check-in charge. Yow! I stowed my suitcase in the bag room, and headed back out.

To save some money, I did not stay in central London, but this scene across from the Holiday Inn Express in the Golders Green suburb was just not typical!

At 11, I met two hosts from the London Business School’s Marketing Club, Joyce and Christian, and delivered a 75-minute talk to MBA students (the Financial Times ranks LBS’s MBA program as #1 in the world). Gotta keep moving, I said, and after packing away a club-provided sandwich lunch, I headed back across town to King’s Cross station and onto the fast train to Cambridge – my second visit in less than two months.

Always good to be in that town that seems to hum with brain power. I headed to the Starbucks on Market Street for a large wake-up, worked my e-mail, and at 3:15 met a new host, Jochen Menges, a young prof who I first got to know three years earlier at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. He and another colleague, Andreas Richter, organized a joint session of two classes in human-resource management, and from 4:00 to 6:00 I presented the second talk of the day. The group was small, and mainly undergraduates, but very engaged. Afterward, the two profs and a handful of students crossed the street to Brown’s for a couple of pints and a fun conversation; one of the youngsters, Alex, was on a yearlong exchange from MIT, and his perspectives on the UK, the university, and other stuff were really good. Ambled back to the station, bought a couple of sandwiches and a pint of skim milk for dinner, and hopped on the train. It was a long day.

First stop Thursday morning was a cup of coffee back at London Business School with Prof. Rajesh Chandy, who I’ve described in these pages. Rajesh always brims with ideas, and yakking with him is a joy. The next appointment was lunch at one, and just after settling in with a free wi-fi connection in the British Library (one of my favorite “corner offices”), I acted on a thought I had the day before: having read a number of books in recent months set in England during World War II (for example, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, a touching easy read by Alexander McCall Smith), I reckoned it would be cool – given my aviation interest – to see a British Spitfire fighter aircraft, the airplane that saved London and the United Kingdom from the Nazis.

So I hopped on the Tube and rode south to the Imperial War Museum, one of Britain’s best museums, across the Thames from Westminster (I was sure the museum had a Spitfire in their collection, but I Googled from the library to confirm). And there it was, hanging in the atrium. I snapped a couple of pictures from below, then walked to the second floor to be close to the machine. The facts on the interpretive plaque made it even more impressive: under 6,000 pounds, small fuel tank, big Rolls Royce Merlin engine. As I read the data, a young mother arrived with her pre-teen son and his friend. She told the boys that her grandfather flew them from factory to airfields, and I listened to her account, fascinated by the link to the defense of their island home.

Spitfire, the plane that saved Britain, Imperial War Museum

I didn’t have a lot of time, but enough to take a brisk walk through a temporary exhibit called “The Children’s War.” Some very touching photos, recorded oral histories, and artifacts. About 10 percent of the deaths from the Blitz were children under 12.

Bronze from the exhibit "The Children's War"; almost all of the rest of the art and photographs were hugely grim.

Walking away from the museum, I paused to look east, and spotted a new skyscraper going up on what looked like the South Bank; I had not seen it on either of my last two visits in late 2010. An older fellow stood nearby, and I asked him if he knew anything about it. Indeed he did, at least the rough outlines, and that launched the best Talking to Strangers episode in a while. Dick Pimm was 71, interested in aviation, and we talked for more than 20 minutes. He gave me the outlines of his life. I have become recently interested in what British people of his age can recall about the war years (indeed, after returning from the UK in January, I mentioned to Linda that I’d really like to collect such stories into a book), so I asked him. His eyes twinkled and he said two things were vivid: a German V1 rocket-bomb sailing over their house in Croydon, south of London, in 1944, and a few months later attending a concert of the famous Glenn Miller Orchestra from the U.S. “I can still remember that music,” he said, smiling. It was a lovely chat; how I enjoy those moments.

Dick Pimm, born 1940

I hopped on a red double-decker bus, rode across the Thames, and got off at Parliament Square. A bronze of a glowering Churchill stood across the street. I walked north and east, and in a nice coincidence, came upon a newly-erected memorial, to Sir Keith Park (1892-1975), a New Zealander who coordinated the defense of London in 1940. Thanks, Keith!

Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park


Traditional sign, in this case for tea and coffee merchants Justerini & Brooks, better known today as purveyors of wine and spirits

At 1:00, I met David Holmes, another long-time friend, for lunch at the posh Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall. A March lunch with David has become an annual delight. Now 76, and retired from British Airways and a longer career as a senior leader in the Ministry of Transport, he’s a prince of a fellow. The conversation and the meal lasted a couple of hours. We laughed, we got serious, and we enjoyed the time immensely. Enough fun, time for work, and at 4:00 I arrived at the London School of Economics, meeting for 15 minutes with a Dutch student (Arnoud, who introduced me to the people at the Technical University Delft) who sought advice on his thesis, then listening to a student presentation on American Airlines – it was the fourth or fifth time I had helped with the project. After the talk, my host Geoffrey Owen, his colleague David De Meza, and I repaired to the basement of Cooper’s Restaurant across the street to de-brief the presentation. I peeled off for the northern suburbs, grabbed a quick curry dinner near my hotel, and clocked out.

Met a couple of other friends on Friday morning and at lunch, then headed out to Heathrow. Worked in the Admirals Club for a couple of hours, then hopped on a flight to Chicago. I was glad to be heading home. But no: an hour west, we turned around, the captain first announcing a medical emergency, then after landing mentioning a risk from fumes coming from the rear cargo hold. Yikes! We got off the plane and waited at a locked gate area for an hour. American canceled the flight, and we all headed back through immigration and customs, then over to a nearby hotel. Some customers grumbled, but I thought my company handled the whole thing quite well.

I was lucky to get a nice seat the next morning on the nonstop to Dallas/Fort Worth. And I was even happier to be headed home. The last two overseas trips have been long and busy. I love to travel, but it was a blessing to hug MacKenzie at 3:15 that afternoon (she was the only one to hug – Linda was back in Virginia with the grandchildren). I was glad to be in our bungalow in Texas. That evening, I figured out one of the reasons why it was so good to be home: of the first 71 nights of the new year, I was away for 35.

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To Canada Again, This Time West

Winter skyline, Edmonton, Alberta

On Sunday, February 27, I flew north to Calgary, Alberta. I was enroute to Edmonton, 175 miles north, to my second visit to the University of Alberta, but first stop was reconnection with a great old friend, Jeff Angel, who I had not seen in five years. Jeff and I go back to Canadian Airlines, when he and I both had PR jobs and American had an ownership interest (Air Canada acquired the company in 2000-01). Jeff met me at the airport. He opened his trunk and I snapped pictures of a quintessential Canadian still life: hockey skates, jumper cables, and jugs of windshield-washer fluid. Classic!

We drove a couple of miles south to a restaurant and yakked for two hours, catching up and laughing, me loudly enough to draw a few stares. Many patrons were watching the Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s curling competition, which Team Saskatchewan won, thereby becoming Team Canada for 2011 (it’s an acquired taste, at least to this Yank).

Jeff Angel's almost stereotypically Canadian trunk, eh!

Jeff dropped me at the airport, I killed a few hours, and flew to Edmonton, arriving about nine. Hopped in a crowded shuttle and was at my hotel (adjacent to the U of A campus) before ten, into Serious Winter – fresh snow and 0º F. Woke up the next morning to a sound from my childhood, back to W. 50th Street in Edina, Minnesota: metal on pavement, as snow plows cleared campus parking lots. Zipped down to the fitness center for a bike ride to nowhere (though it was warm and dry, and not -8º), then down to breakfast at a greenie coffee shop (I was the only person in a necktie and the only male without facial hair).

At ten, I met my host, Kyle Murray, and we had a short chat before class. Kyle has created a very cool niche, the only school of retailing in a Canadian business school, and we talked about that and some other topics. At eleven, I delivered a talk to undergrads, and at noon to an occasional forum for MBAs and faculty, lots of fun, but requiring some fast talking (it’s really better to have 75 or more minutes). Kyle and I grabbed a quick lunch, and he peeled off.

I returned to the hotel, did some work, and headed out for a little look see, riding the light-rail train into downtown, then the #100 express bus out to the West Edmonton Mall. (Edmonton had received a lot of snow, and the streets were slippery and rutted, but the driver really knew how to handle it, and I complimented him when I got off; being a modest Canadian, he was surprised!). When opened in 1981, the mall was the largest in North America, and is still #1. It was the model for the Mall of America that opened some years later in suburban Minneapolis (Robin and Jack loved going there when we visited family). As you may know, I’m not really a mall person, so a quick walk past the skating rink, ersatz pirate cove, and water park were quite enough.

West Edmonton Mall

Hopped on the #106 bus, which took me to within a block of my hotel. The original plan was to walk 1.5 miles to a regarded Indian restaurant, but with the temp at -10º F and dropping, I opted instead for comfort food at the Highlevel Diner, three blocks from the hotel.

Was up way early on Wednesday morning, onto the airport shuttle van, quick breakfast at the airport Tim Horton’s (where else? I love Tim’s!), and onto a WestJet 737 to Vancouver. The flight was uncharacteristically empty. The cabin crew were true to that new airline’s friendly and engaging persona, especially the woman who did the announcements; a sample: after we took off, she warned us to be careful opening the overhead bins, because, she said, “Shift happens”!

Enroute from Edmonton to Vancouver

Before we took off, I had a nice T-t-S chat with a woman in my row, from High Level, a town of 3,000 in northern Alberta. She and her husband (also the mayor) owned an electronics store there, and she was headed to a Sony new-products show in Vancouver. We yakked about the weather, northern agriculture (at 60º N, you can’t plant until late May or early June, but the long summer days make up for it) of wheat and canola (the oilseed plant with the lovely yellow flowers), regional economic development, remoteness, family. I may have worn her out, because after takeoff she changed seats, and I opened my laptop to work.

Arrived in British Columbia a bit late, hopped on the new Canada Line train just before ten, and was downtown less than 30 minutes later. The escalator from the subway station surfaced in the splendidly restored waiting room of the former Canadian Pacific Railway station, a lovely public space. The scene made the Transport Geek smile.

Decorative sails, Canada Place

My hosts at the University of British Columbia kindly picked up the tab for the very posh room 616 at the nearby Fairmont Waterfront; after a string of fairly mundane rooms the luxury was appreciated – even more so the fact that it was a corner room with huge windows affording views of the harbor on one side and the city on the other. I worked my e-mail a bit, and at 11:10 got on the bus out to the school for my sixth consecutive visit. UBC is in a lovely setting on a peninsula, flanked by huge evergreens (I often think of the province as the Land of Big Trees).

New and old on the UBC Campus

I met my host, Nicole Adler, a visitor from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and we yakked a bit, then went for lunch with two Italian Ph.D. students from the University of Bergamo, near Milan, and David Gillen, one of my two regular UBC hosts. It was sort of “20 questions” for me, but they were eager to get my views on a range of airline issues. UBC is the only school I visit where the hosts are specifically transport people, and that makes it interesting. At two I delivered to a small group of undergrads and the two Italians. It would have been nice to do a bit more teaching, but it was good to combine the Alberta and B.C. trips into one.

I headed back downtown to see an old friend, Kathy Mullen, from the Oneworld Management Company, the group that coordinates and advances the activities of the oneworld airline alliance. Like Jeff Angel, I’ve known Kathy for more than 15 years, back to the old days of Canadian Airlines. At the Elephant & Castle pub, we had a drink and a good chat about the state of the alliance, various current and recently departed colleagues, and more. Staying connected, again.

Ambled back to the hotel, worked a bit, called Linda and Jack, and before eight headed out in light rain to Cardero’s, a favorite seafood place right on the water. They continue to build highrises along the water, and have changed the layout of the seawall promenade, but after a few detours I was tucking into a half-dozen local Effingham oysters and a pint of local pale ale. Nice! As I headed back to the hotel, I marveled at all the new development, thought about all that I had seen over the previous month in five of Canada’s six largest cities, and asked myself: do Canadians, people often decried as “socialists” by U.S. conservatives, have any trouble with economic development? Growth? Urban revitalization? No, they don’t. There are many paths. There is no single right answer.

Just when you think downtown Vancouver can't support more highrises, more sprout; the Marine Building, the older structure at left, was once the tallest building in the British Empire.

Was up early again the next morning, down to the hotel gym for 10 miles on an exercise bike, a bit of work, then out the door for brunch at Solly’s, a deli near city hall. My tablemate was John McCulloch, another friend from the Oneworld Management Company. When oneworld began in the late 1990s, they chose Vancouver as a central point. Canadian Airlines had its base there, Qantas and Cathay Pacific were across the Pacific, and the other carriers were east and south. But the airlines decided to relocate the management company to New York, and John was not moving with them. We yakked about the airline business, about plans, family. I’ve known him a dozen years, a good fellow, for sure. Flew home in the afternoon, but not before admiring this:

Young aboriginal artist Neil Goertzen received a 2009 scholarship from the Vancouver airport's art foundation for this work, Blue Mountain Hawk. Slow down when you're zipping through an airport -- you might get a pleasant surprise like this!

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