An odd flight home for Thanksgiving

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I was set to fly from Oakland back to Baltimore. I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight. I grabbed a quick beer at Pyramid Tap Room right behind the security line and then head over to my gate.

The flight ends up being about 25 minutes late to land, but no big deal. Then we start to board, and it is the slowest boarding ever. Even two flight attendants noted it out loud while chatting near me.

I’m sitting in seat 3C on the left aisle. Some guy gets on near the end of boarding who seems to be rambling on and on. I cannot tell if he was drunk or not all there in the head. He takes a seat two rows behind me in the middle seat. One of the last people to board is looking for one of the last available middle seats, and he yells out “sit on the floor.” Ahem, that seemed weird to say to someone.

Next, I swear I hear him mention something about blowing up the plane. But I turn around, and the people in the two rows behind me who would have heard it all seem like nothing happened. I chalk it up to me mishearing something and go back to my pre-boarding ritual of playing Solitaire. The guy keeps rambling out loud, but again I chalk it up to him being drunk or missing a few marbles.

As we push back, I see the attendant look oddly at someone behind me. She walks back, and the guy in the middle rows tells her, “The guy behind me has been talking about blowing up the plane and going up high and never coming down.” She asks did anyone else hear it and 2 or 3 other people say yes. I mention I heard it, but no one was alarmed earlier, so I thought misheard it.

So she runs up to the front and radios the captain. We are not yet to the runway but we are taxing that way. The plane makes an abrupt stop, and we sit there for a few minutes. Then we make a turn, and the captain mentions to everyone that we need to make an unexpected return to the gate and apologizes for the delay.

At this point, the people near me are getting nervous, but the rest of the plane knows nothing about the situation. Once we make it to the gate, we sit there without opening the door for a while which I assume was giving time for police to be there. Finally about 15 minutes after we turned back to the gate the door opened and the stewardess invited the person to leave with her. He totally seemed out of if and did not realize what was happening. I think that he must have been missing marbles and not drunk, as even drunk people know when they are getting asked to leave a plane there must be a problem.

Once he walks off the plane, an attendant asks the people in his row which bag was his, and they take that out to the police. The captain comes out and makes a statement to the plane about the situation and tells everyone to relax because the police already believe this to be a mock threat. He asks that we stay seated and wait for the police to finish arresting the man and then we will head out.

We are now an hour behind schedule, but whatever, I am on the plane, and it is non-stop to Baltimore, so no layover worries like some others on the aircraft. So I chill out and fiddle around with my phone for a while. The police come onto the plane and ask for people to provide statements if they heard it clearly. I say I did not so I did not provide one. After about 20 minutes those who did provide statements come back onboard and the plane cheers as it is now time to go.

At this point, the captain re-appears up front with a solemn face. He states to the cabin that while he and police agree the threat was not credible, yet for an abundance of caution, they are going to empty the plane of passengers and baggage (including bags down below) to be able to use K9 dogs to check for any problems.

So my anxiety goes to 11 at this point, but the captain says for everyone to be calm because we will be flying on the safest flight in the country. He makes a good point, and I chill out a little bit. To deplane, we all had to line up on the jetway on the right side with our carry-ons on the left side. Once about 1/3 of the plane had filled the full jetway, a bomb-sniffing dog walked by sniffing everyone’s bags. All clear with our group, so we were let out to the terminal. We were asked to stay close as the goal was to re-board within 20 minutes. Haha, there was no chance of that in my opinion.

So I head out to grab water and grab a snack for the ride. Back at the gate, I see the final group coming off the plane and outside they are starting to re-load luggage into the cargo hold. So it looks like we will be taking off after all.

We finally take off 3 hours behind schedule and thus landing around 1 am in Baltimore. Everyone with a layover is screwed and will be getting put up in a hotel. I, on the other hand, will take an Uber home and sleep in my bed for the first time in over a month. Wahoo.

Wrapping up August in San Francisco

I have not written anything up in the past few weeks even though a ton has happened. To say I have been busy is an understatement.

When I came back from Guatemala, I was sick for a week. After that, work picked up with a lot of late days. But on the weekend, I bought a bicycle helmet on August 6th and signed up for the Bay Area Bike Share and road around downtown SF each weekend since. It is great to get exercise and have an excuse to bike around different neighborhoods.

I also found I live two blocks from Sightglass Coffee and CellarMaker Brewing. There were a few very good coffees and brews in these locations.

Cathy came out for a weekend, and we had a ball together. The four weeks since I had last saw her was the longest we had been apart for 11 years. So we had a phenomenal time on the weekend just hanging out and smiling and laughing. We ended up doing a hike in the city at Land's End Trail. We took it all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Here is the track of our hike along with some photos from it.

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After that hike, we went to AT&T Park to see the Orioles playing the Giants. A great view from most of the seats in this park. Unfortunately, the O's got pummeled.

The next morning we set off to explore the Mission District in San Francisco. It was beautiful weather, and we ended up spending some time relaxing in Dolores Park with this fantastic view.

The weekend after Cathy was in town I took an impromptu solo trip to Vegas for about 36 hours. 

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I stayed at the Linq and had a fun time just getting away for the weekend and letting loose. Being the middle of August, it was hot as hell, and these misters all over the pathways made it reasonable when trying to walk from casino to casino.

Also, Caesars was celebrating its' 50th anniversary. They had a red celebration sash over Caesar in the entryway. Below that is a picture showing Caesar's original gambling floor still there after 50 years.

I used the Vegas Monorail to visit SLS and Westgate. I have never been to Westgate before and wanted to see its' SuperBook™ sports book. Wow, it is huge, there must be 200 feet of LCD screen on this wall. It is all configurable to show different channels at different sizes too.

During the weekend was UFC 202 which had the McGregor vs. Diaz fight. I looked for tickets, but the prices were ridiculous. So I decided I would try and watch it at one of the places in the city. I found a bar in the Linq plaza showing it, but it was full and was ten people deep watching through the windows, and I could not see anything. So I went to O'Sheas and sat at the outside bar to people watch. 

As an aside, in my opinion, the outside bar at O'Sheas is one of the best people watching places in Vegas. If you are there, check it out.

I knew my cousin Ryan sometimes gets the UFC fights, so I asked him to FaceTime it for me if he had it.  Sure enough 3 minutes later I am watching the first round of the main event. It was amazing to think I was viewing a fight occurring six hotels south from where I was on the Las Vegas Strip. But the feed was streaming from the arena to satellites down to my cousin's cable PPV feed in Connecticut, then over the internet to my phone back in Las Vegas. The future is here, and it is beautiful. Below is a screenshot of the FaceTime stream.

The bartender had a bet on the fight and was super pumped to be able to watch in between serving people. He ended up hooking me up with a few free beers. By the end of the fight, there were five people huddled around my phone on the bar watching and cheering. It ended up being a great fight, and I am very thankful to Ryan for hooking me up. Here is a video of the bartender celebrating the Irishman McGregor's victory over Diaz. He may or may not have also had some money on the fight. 

This past week since Vegas has been a blur. Work is starting to get very busy now that I know enough to be dangerous. Also, I am already starting to look at opportunities for my next rotation. Time is flying by already.

Guatemala Trip #1

I will start this off by saying I got my first stamps in my passport book this past week. Woot woot!

Secondly, I'm delayed posting this as I came back sick and had barely left my apartment in the past five days.

Back to the fun stuff of Guatemala. I left for Guatemala on Sunday, July 24th taking Delta from SFO to my layover in LAX. Then I got on a midnight redeye flight into Guatemala City. As we were on our decent, we were above the clouds and along with the sunrise I caught this beautiful picture.

For reference, here is a map showing the pertinent locations in my life so you understand how distant things are.

Once we landed and I took my phone off airplane mode, I found my first problem. I have no cellular service here. I did not see a SIM card place on the way out to pick one up. I found out when leaving on Friday that there are multiple SIM card places upstairs on the departures level. I now know that the next time I visit in September.

I will tell you, the hardest part of being in Guatemala is the language barrier for me. I speak only the most basic terms in Spanish. So I had three ways of communicating around the city. First, if the person spoke any English, then I was good to go. Second, I would use hand motions, which worked some of the time too. The third way was to use the Google Translate app and show the translation to the person. Between those three things, I was able to get around pretty well.

At the Xoom office, while Spanish was obviously the most spoken language everyone could converse in English with me, so that brought me less anxiety and more comfortable being around for the week.

The Xoom Guatemala office is gorgeous. Here are a selection of photos.

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Here is a few more pictures that I want to provide some commentary. First, the badge reader is also a fingerprint reader. Very cool!

This office is recently renovated and expanded, so here is what happens when the elevator installation is behind schedule.

Finally, for those of you who work in an office every day and dream of a standing desk. Here adjustable standing desks are the default for everyone. You have to ask to have it removed, whereas in most companies it is the opposite and a bunch of red-tape.

I kept a log of general observations in my time in Guatemala. The first and most important one are how friendly everyone I interacted was. A concrete example was a cab driver who was able to converse with me in English. He apologized to me for not speaking clearly in English. I was flabbergasted by this. I was in his country and unable to speak his country's language, and he apologized to me for not speaking my language clearly. I can just imagine the "speak the language of our country" people here in the US who would have been a total jackass about that. In return, I apologized to him for not speaking his language and thanked him for speaking such clear English.

Another observation was that a Bombay Sapphire martini was cheaper than a local light beer. Not by much, but both were about $6 USD. That would never happen back home.

Finally, on the way home as we descended to SFO I saw this weird fields whose patterns reminded me of the Maryland flag.

1st Full Week in San Francisco

I finished my first full week in San Francisco. As I write this on Sunday morning, July 24th I am packing up my suitcase for my 1st of likely three or four trips to Guatemala as part of this six months I am spending with the Xoom team. Half of the Xoom team works from Guatemala as part of my Host Leaders former BlueKite team which was acquired by Xoom in early 2014. 

I started with the team on Monday the 18th, and they were all welcoming from the very beginning. To a person, I have felt like I have been with the team for weeks already. I appreciate that as it's hard to start what is essentially a second new job in six months. I spent the first half of the week getting my laptop proper access and the 2nd half of the week deep diving in the projects I will be working on and starting my mental mind map of how everything fits together. While tiring, it was a productive week and preps me to meet the teams in Guatemala this coming week.

Here are some photos around the office. First, the logo and welcome wall in the elevator lobby. 

My desk is ready on day-1, perfect!

My host leader Bobby is rocking three screens to stay on top of shit.

The view of the bay from the conference room right behind my desk. Yes, it is beautiful.

Finally, every conference room has an iPad outside its schedule for the day, when the room is booked and by whom. You also can impromptu book it right there on the iPad, so if you see a free room, it is two taps to making it yours. Dope.

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Outside of work, I have been slowly expanding my circle of places to visit around the locations of work and my apartment. Since it was a full week of work, I did not get many pictures, but here are a few neat ones. The first is a cool black and white contrast image. The second one shows you just how steep the hills here are. They had to put stairs in the sidewalk and my phone is level for this image to show the steepness as best as possible.

Finally, Ace's has become my go-to watering hole. Friendly people, the MLB package so I can watch the Orioles and they cater to my Miller Lite tastebuds. Also, while there on Saturday, I learned a San Francisco local bar game. 1-4-24 which per Wikipedia can be called Midnight. You play for dollars, and it is a hell of a lot of fun.