Bamidele O. Shangobunmi

JANG Speaks!: February 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I can move mountains

For the past couple of weeks I've made random references in the company of friends to an indeterminant mass of clothes piling up in my bedroom, patiently waiting to be ironed or folded and put away. Today, I ironed or folded all of them and put them away. With a twist. I counted them too. The results are in! Survey says:
  • 13 button-up shirts
  • 4 pairs of slacks
  • 8 pairs of jeans
  • 7 long-sleeve heavy shirts & sweaters
  • 3 long-sleeve undershirts
  • 11 short-sleeve shirts (from basic white tees to designer button-ups)
  • 2 pairs of PJ pants
  • 4 ties
  • 15 pairs of socks
  • 11 pairs of boxers
  • 1 set of thermals

Brutal. Just brutal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Friday Tieday & Other Silliness

During the Omaha trip, one of the random topics of conversation that came up was my experimentation with an "anti-Casual Friday" dress routine at my last company. Places where dress is always fairly casual, I figured the concept of Casual Friday was pretty moot, if not a total sham, so from time to time I would actually dress up on Friday. Someone mentioned that we should try that with the coworkers in our cubicle row. Rather than going to the extent of recommending a full style of dress, we decided to just ask everyone to wear ties, one way or another.

Well, this past Friday was our proof of concept, and it worked. About 2/3rds of us actually took the plunge, far more than I honestly expected. Rather than laughs from folks on other teams that didn't know what was going on, I actually got complements, and even a couple requests to extend the newly founded tradition to the entire user experience team (most of the floor of our building). I don't think we're ready for all that just yet, but maybe we can find a second small team to combine forces with and extend our pilot test.

"Help! It's attacking my neck!"

Speaking of combining forces, my team underwent a merger this week with another group of equal size. The other team worked on a slightly different aspect of the application than us, so the biggest real change for us is that now instead of having three sorta-managers, we will have one. Well, at least we will once our new manager gets up to speed with what we do and how we work. Good stuff there.

The big fire recently enveloping my old project continued to burn heartily, and this week some of the swirling embers congealed into a new page flow, labelled #12 (out of the 2 originally planned). I managed to get that stomped out, but there are still flames everywhere. Thankfully my newer major project is so far behind due do delays upstream that it will probably have to be pushed back a release. However, delay or no delay, I'm still lined up for an executive design review on Wednesday, so here I am, midday on a holiday, merely taking a break before going back to work on these darn mockups.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Omaha Trip Report: Friday 2/9/07, and Summary

We were checked out of the hotel by 6:30am, and in the airport lobby by 7 after a very cautious drive that finally let me get a tiny bit of use out of that whole 4WD thing. My flight path included a stop at Denver, Colorado, and oh, how I was pleasantly surprised to see a wolf (yes, a wolf, not a coyote) out on the runways as we taxied in to the terminal! Incidentally, half of Thursday's summary as well as what you're reading right now was written in Denver terminal A, between gates 42 & 44, while I watched this plane get de-iced:

The rest below was pencilled in on the plane to Oakland.

Trip Summary
I've got to level with ya. I was absolutely dreading this trip. I've travelled by air only 4 times before and I hadn't gotten comfortable with the potential complications of airports & baggage claims, packing appropriately, and getting around in unfamiliar territory. On top of that, the consistently subfreezing (and sometimes even subzero) temperatures in Nebraska this season had me, a person who had touched snow only once in his life, imagining the agony of frostbite & inner-nose icicles. Oh, how I was pleasantly surprised by reality.
First off, the flight, hotel, and car rental logistics were a piece of cake. Secondly, the weather/climate wasn't so bad after all. On the first day I was keeping my brand new down jacket zipped all the way up, and of course when it was snowing I put the hood up. Gradually it got to where I would only gently pull the front closed for walks of a few blocks or less outside. By Thursday night I was going to & from the car in a regular shirt & slacks. I told my colleagues it was a 50-second rule. I could go 50 seconds without my jacket before the body heat buffered in my clothes got used up. This usually helped us get around faster. Usually.
Next up, the folks in Nebraska were the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming hosts I could have asked for. They truly made us feel right at home, and I didn't get the slightest bit homesick even once. For the first time in my life, I feel open to the possibility of moving out of California some day. Shocking? Well, to me it is!
Lastly, but most importantly, there were my three coworkers from the California office. Together, we had an absolute blast, and the trip was an opportunity to do a bit of bonding that I'm sure will make work-life back in San Jose ever more enjoyable. We were laughing & joking pretty much from the beginning until the end and were always watching out for each other & helping each other out.
I never expected to see myself write this, but I sincerely look forward to the next trip...

Omaha Trip Report: Thursday 2/8/07

Today was the big day of the "O.A.T.S." Summit (don't ask, I won't tell). I had stayed up late again the previous night watching Discovery, wired with my usual pattern of insomnia and not sleeping until 2am. I awoke before my alarm went off, but I had the most difficult time yet getting up. I was just getting out of the shower at the very minute the three of us were supposed to meet up for breakfast (down to three of us because one left to return to California a day early). I tried calling one colleague who often leaves her cell phone behind, and lo & behold, she had left her cell phone behind. Set on alerting the two of my status, I called the other, but she explained that she was skipping breakfast. Moments before we ended the call, she thanked me for calling and... waking her up. Hmm. That certainly explained her decision to skip breakfast!

We ended up leaving hopelessly late, but made up some time on the road. We actually got to the conference hall around just 8 minutes behind schedule. We had planned on arriving early to get good seats (an estimated 250-300 people were invited), but when we got there, we peeked our heads in the doorway, looked one way, looked the other, and stood in silent confusion for a moment at the sight of about 15 people in a sea of empty chairs. The presentation computer wasn't even authenticated on the network yet! So much for needing to rush in to get good seats! More people would show up over the course of the morning, but the joke of the day was that there were 50 people present (tops) and 200+ on the phone.

The presentations started at around 9:50 and went far faster than planned, leaving plenty of break time to wait for speakers who were running behind schedule. In fact, every single presentation completed well ahead of schedule and the day was generously peppered with long breaks. My laptop battery died midday and for some reason it wouldn't charge, so I borrowed a fellow designer's machine to check my email from the floor. Bad move. A fire had broken out on my old project. A big one. I ended up missing most of one presentation while I reviewed draft change proposals and exchanged emails with staff back in California in real time. Sigh.

After the summit ended (around 4:30), we went back to building 1 to log out from the guest desktops and clean up the desks. On the way over, we crossed paths with another group from California and shared "bye for now's" and wishes for safe trips for all of us. I "quickly" checked my email one last time, exchanging a few more fire-related directives, before packing up and heading out.

We immediately went back to the hotel to drop off our laptops & such, then headed back out to water around town while we had a chance. I had written down the locations of a few shopping spots and my colleagues were a bit concerned about the fact that I didn't have any actual driving directions. I tried to assure them that I had figured out enough about the city by this time and could get anywhere on the list with the help of just my few Google point-to-point maps to & from the office, hotel, airport, and a few restaurants (printed back in California). They weren't convinced, but I managed to get them in the car anyhow. Amazing what a good bribe can do. Just kidding.

The first place we went was Iowa. Yes, Iowa. The state. It was barely a 10 minute drive down one street and one freeway, so we figured, what the hey? Over there we saw a couple quick sights, including the Harrah's riverboat & casino complex. Soon we were back in Nebraska, heading due West down the main surface street that goes straight the hearts of the towns that make up greater Omaha. We stopped at a mall for awhile & then continued on Westward in search of food. We ended up eating at P.F. Chang's -- three shrimp dishes served family-style, brown & white rice, and garlic noodles. Ah, it was good food, the least oily & creamy versions of each dish that I had ever partaken of.

Once our stomachs were full, like N2Deep once said, it was time to go "back to the hotel." That night, two inches of snow fell over the city, painting a fresh glittery sheen over its dulling winter blanket.

To the driver of the maroon Corolla

You, my friend, whoever you are, have earned my respect.

The last time I encountered a driver with similar tactical skill to my own on the freeways was in 1999 or 2000. I was driving my '84 Volvo 740 (normally aspirated, 4spd manual w/ overdrive) headed south on I-80 through moderate to heavy traffic in Albany, making good headway. The driver of a late-model 2-door Tercel took interest in my bobbing & weaving and decided to give chase. He pushed hard, making more dangerous moves than I, and it wasn't long before he passed me. In my complete and utter stupidity at the time, I decided it was "game on." Within seconds, we had passed the battling stage. We were at war.

As we entered the limits of the next city, traffic became thicker and more erratic, varying from 50mph to under 20 in a zone where the usual flow of traffic is 70. The Tercel pilot used his vehicle's tiny size to his full advantage, fitting through gaps I could barely squeeze through if I was driving perpendicular to the road. I used my slight power-to-weight advantage to strike more suddenly through openings, and I raised my sensory awareness to the redline to gather the most precise real-time data on the cars ahead, how they were moving in relation to eachother, who was preparing to make what move, who was driving in what way, and what routes would most likely be at my disposal 5 to 15 seconds ahead. By using strategy and foresight, I regained the lead, but that is only where the real challenge began.

In previous freeway battles I had learned how to control traffic and use it against my opponents, or to lead them down rolling "dead end" traps by appearing to get frustrated at missing an opportunity that was really not an opportunity at all. Against this Tercel, though, none of my tricks stuck. Again, his car was too short to get boxed in, and he was too fast to react. We traded places several more times, but for him, despair began to set in. Once I saw him briefly use the carpool lane to get an advantage (generally taboo in these engagements), and worse still, at one point he drove on the shoulder to get around a car. Capitalizing on his wavering focus, I strengthened my resolve and began relying 90% on strategy and patience. It paid off, and he wouldn't pass me again.

That was then, but this is now. This evening, on my normal commute home, traffic thickened where it usually does, and rather than sitting back and going with the flow, I decided I wanted to get home as quickly as safely possible. It was time to "beat." When I say "beat," I'm referring what I call "beating" through traffic -- getting to the correct lane at the correct time to maintain the most forward momentum safely possible. It does not involve cutting people off, making sudden or erratic, unsignalled moves, using illegal lanes, or speeding. It involves obeying all traffic laws, leaving enough room for one's self and others to make mistakes or react to random hazards, all the while getting from point A to point B in the shortest time reasonable.

When I drive, I maintain three zones of awareness in all directions around my car. The first is the closest to me, and covers the car behind me, the two adjacent lanes from about a carlength behind me to a few carlengths in front of me, and the two cars in front of me, or whatever is within a second of space ahead of me. Within this zone, I know every single thing that is happening. I know who is on their cel phone, who is getting something for their kid out of a bag behind the seat, who is on cruise control, and who is thinking about changing lanes. If anything within this zone moves more than 2 inches, I know about it. The next zone extends out another several carlengths behind me and another second or two in front of me, and usually spills over to two lanes on one of my sides. Within this band of space, I stay aware of relative speeds as well as any unusual or potentially unsafe activity, so if something goes suddenly wrong in front of or behind me, I will be able to react immediately and escape without having to look first. The in the third, outermost zone, I collect information at the lowest fidelity and with the least consistent coverage. This is the range where I notice the slow minivan coming around the cloverleaf to merge onto the freeway 1/4 mile ahead, or the car 6 vehicles ahead that I can't actually see, but that I know is going slower than everyone back to me because the cars between us are changing lanes in sequence to get around.

When I go into "beating" mode, all of these zones expand dramatically. My eyes open wide, my hands go to "10 and 2" or sometimes just "8 and 2" positions, and every available brain cell is activated. My head stays steady, but my eyes shift incessantly, checking every mirror, maintaining a constant read on the situation around and about me. My second zone of awareness extends as far as the 3rd normally does, allowing me to plan lane changes 10 to sometimes upwards of 20 seconds before I need to make them to keep from getting stuck in a slowing lane. I watch for motorcycles splitting lanes behind me and people inching to one side of a lane or another to look for faster routes.

Now, back to this evening. I was beating up I-880, running the normal lane change decision tree algorithms that say such things as, "if the metering lights for the _________ Ave. onramp are on, stay in lane 4 until brake lights come on 50yds ahead, then go to lane 3 until speeds equalize after the left bend, and return to lane 4." Etcetera. Everything was going pretty normally. As usual, not a single car on the freeway was making as much consistent forward progress as my own. Except for one. It was a bone stock, maroon, early 90's Toyota Corolla. It wasn't following any of the patterns I normally observe, such as:
  1. Yaaaay I'm in the faster lane... booo it slowed down :(
  2. Yaaaay I'm switching to the faster lane... booo it slowed down :(
  3. Yaaaay I'm switching to faster lanes to the left because left lanes are always faster! Booo the left lane came to a complete stop :(
  4. Frickin', frackin' traffic! Argh! Ok now that lane is faster lemmie go there. CRAP! Now that lane is faster lemmie go there! CRAP! (Lather, rinse, repeat.)
  5. Zzzzzzz I'll get there when I get there.

No, this Corolla was making safe, timely moves and maintaining forward momentum. Many of its moves were, in fact, the exact same ones I was making, only with some of them, his timing was better than my own. Fascinating! The driver clearly knew this traffic, and had both strategic and tactical skill! For the first time since I settled into this commute late last year, I wasn't the getting from point A to point B faster than everyone else.

My first instinct was to step up my activity to try to keep up with this traffic-master, but my sense of safety wouldn't allow. There wasn't any quick & easy solution to this quandary; whether it was pure skill or skill combined with supreme luck, this guy had the clear tactical advantage. I was frustrated, but inspired at the same time. This guy thought just like me, only a hair better and faster, and before long, he was 6 or so cars ahead. I had only one last hope of keeping up -- resting on the laurels of my strategic skills. It would my traffic-beating algorithms against his. For the next few miles, we did the dance in lock step. He would make the right move at the right spot, and when I got to that same spot, I'd make the same move. Together, we were making tremendous headway, but relative to eachother, we were in a deadlock. Then, at one of the most critical decision points of the route, our plans diverged. It was the lane 4/lane 3 50yd/merge scenario I mentioned above. I was seeing all of the standard patterns of traffic flow and the metering lights for the merge lane were on, but lane 4 slowed down at the point where it normally does only when the metering lights are off. My rules said based on the symptoms, I should go to lane 3, but not all of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. I was confused. Something was wrong. The Corolla made it to lane 3 just seconds before the slowdown, again displaying his undeniable tactical mastery, but I stayed in place, trying to recalibrate & recalculate based on the strange readings the road was giving me. The 'Rolla began working good momentum in lanes 3 and 2, a strategy that I have made work in other situations, but never this one. I stuck to my guns and followed the rules that had always worked for me, moving to lane 3 for a stint, then returning to 4. The glitch proved to be just that, a glitch, like a stray eddy in an otherwise predictable stream, and quickly lane 4 was doing its thing, moving at a consistent speed while the other 3 experienced unpredictable turbulence (I like to use analogies to fluid dynamics because it's a fun and often very accurate way to model the way traffic works). The Corolla continued to work lanes 3 & 2, but his was a losing battle. I passed him once, then fell behind as he caught a burst of speed, then I went by again, this time not to see him again. Another half-mile down the road, where lane 4 becomes an "exit only" affair, I skewed my second zone of perception to the left and played the brakelight patterns in all four lanes to make my final move over to lane 1 with ease.

It was bittersweet. I had met, and defeated, an honorable, responsible, law-abiding, true traffic master.

You, my friend, the driver of that maroon Corolla, whoever you are, have earned my respect. Perhaps we'll meet again some day; it would surely be an honor.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Omaha Trip Report: Wednesday 2/7/07

Ugh, I should have slept before 2am. While Tuesday morning it was easy to wake up, getting up at 7:30 this time was very, very difficult. At preakfast, we all fessed up with stories of being scared in our rooms by mysterious self-moving curtain rods, an unexpected mirrored closet door, strange grumbling noises, etc.

On the way in, it happened. It actually happened. I saw snow, falling, from the sky, on its own. It was my first time, and my, was it a magical little moment. By the time we arrived at the office, we were in a nice little shower, and by lunchtime a blower/shovel/sweeper crew was making rounds nonstop around the buildings as the weather condition escalated to a "snow flurry."

In the morning we each spent about 2 hours 1-on-1 with agents working on account-level user issues. However, after lunch with our little traveling group plus one Omaha PM, we had a full 3 hours free. I took the time to "relax" a bit while responding to emails and working on my project from California.

As I looked around the office, I realized that ettiquite is a big thing out there. Eating (other than hard candy), drinking from open cups, and taking cel phone calls is not allowed at desks. People are reminded to keep their voices down around workers. Hand sanitation stations are located around the facility, and every desk gets a bottle of desanitizer. Signs are posted reminding people to cover their nose/mouth when coughing or sneezing. The rules are enforced by peers, but feeling is not oppressive, at least to a casual observer. It may seem like there are more rules than normal, but they're all there to help people be productive as well as safe. People personalize their work areas freely, dress is very, very casual, and people seem to get along well.

Nebraska folks seemed to me to be exceptionally personable, both in the office and out. When you pass a total stranger, eye contact is made and both people greet eachother. In contrast, in California there seems to be this inherent air of suspicion or alienation with many people. I don't know what it is.

Ok, in the later afternoon, to keep from being left all by my lonesome, I crashed a meeting my California colleagues were attending with an Omaha PM regarding a project they'd be working on this season. I liked the meeting room. Had it been a little larger and brighter, I think I would have loved it. There were huge whiteboards, practically floor to ceiling, and wall to wall on two sides of the room. The table was non-symmetrical, moderately organic in shape. Nice digs.

After work we went to a reknown steakhouse called "Mahogany" out West, on the other side of the expressway from the original Boys Town. To my surprise, the restaurant was decorated with what appeared to my eyes & fingernails to be real, hard mahogany as opposed to the cheaper "Philippine Mahogany," which is actually a Cedar (and also used as a substitute for teak -- as if you cared). Now, I'm not going to pull punches. This joint was entirely too proper & refined, so much so that it really started to piss me off. There were, for each of us, eight pieces of silverware brought out at various times, that the waiter or any of the 3 other individuals tending to us would come by & adjust anytime we would leave them out of place for more than 6 seconds. I swear, a guy would practically throw himself across the table, saying, "Oh, excuse me, excuse me, thank you, excuse me, thank you" as he adjusted the angle of a fork or moved a butter knife to the correct side of an appetizer plate. Annoying as ****! After all dishes were cleared, they even carefully scraped crumbs from the tablecloth around our glasses & such with what looked like a dull straightedge razor. Not cool, man. Thankfully, as true professionals, my colleagues & I made endless fun of the situation, and I made sure to keep my pinky finger straight & high while eating my french fries. Oh, yes, the food. The food was good, thankfully (though not good enough to endure the humilation of the service ever again). I had a 12 oz. filet mignon and shared a 10 oz. portion of Chilean sea bass with pineapple salsa and jumbo shrimp with one of my distinguished peers.

The entire dinner affair took 2 1/2 hours, leaving us behind schedule to catch the season premiere of Lost. Drat! To the Batmobile! Er, I mean, to the Suzuki! All the same. As we headed out I had my first loss of traction on the trip, sliding a few feet out on black ice under control in a wide turn at an empty intersection. Fun fun; I wish I could have done it again! Well, it wasn't too painfully long before we were back at the hotel, watching the last ~25 minutes of our show on the "big" screen downstairs in the lounge area near the bar. When it was over, we all scattered & took refuge back in our suites to relax a just bit more before hitting the hay.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Omaha Trip Report: Tuesday 2/6/07

This morning I was able to wake up at around 7:45 am local time (5:45 by my brain's time) even without my alarm, and surprisingly I felt pretty refreshed. The hotel's breakfast service was pretty decent; ten times better than the "continental" offerings at the places I usually stay when I travel.

The drive to the office only took about 10 minutes. There they were, two nice-sized 2-story buildings, standing pretty much in the middle of nowhere, all alone. The parking lots were very large and very full, but we were lucky enough to get a "visitor" spot. First each of us took ceremonial pictures with the PayPal sign out front, then we went inside and got our security badges upgraded to work at these offices.

Composite by Anna F.

We were met in the lobby by a program manager who had helped out a ton with consulting on my last project. Finding seating for our group was going to be difficult, but we ended up being set up in a cubicle corral made for four -- perfect! After settling in, we were taken in twos to observe agents at work on live cases. Over the course of the day we spent about five hours observing Omaha employees' work, including over an hour of listening in on incoming calls and watching issues being resolved in real time.

It's fascinating how much work the agents do with their dual screens and four to ten (or more) windows open at a time. I can't give any details, and even if I could I wouldn't because it's so sensitive, proprietary, and important to so many people. Suffice to say, though, there are a lot of sophisticated algorithms being run at all times and a lot of people working multiple shifts, and there is a lot of diligence & teamwork going on to help keep PayPal buyers & sellers safe and happy.

For lunch we went to the new building across the street. Opened just six days before, it was filled with a thick smell of fresh paint and many areas were still under final construction. In the cafeteria we came upon a couple more familiar faces -- PMs from my previous and current projects. We'd see one of them again later for dinner, along with 4 Omaha PMs I hadn't met yet.

Speaking of dinner, we went to a brewery/restaurant a little Westward called Upstream. The food was good and I had my first Hefeweizen before eating other peoples' overly rich desserts. There were a laughs around the table for a good while before we all headed upstairs to play pool. For once I even got in a few good shots. Just a few.

When we got back to the hotel we all immediately headed to the little 'net cove for a final late-night fix of email, and I hung out the longest to get caught up with URC before retiring uptstairs to watch Psych & Dirty Jobs.

Quotes of the day:

"At least it's not a tire" -Anna F.

"No, this is asphalt" -M.e.

"I'm gonna name my next project, 'Not Tellin'..."
"'What project are you workin' on?' Not Tellin."
-Barry G.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Omaha Trip Report: Monday 2/5/07

Sunday night I checked in online & printed my boarding pass before going to sleep very, very early, so waking up early Monday morning to get ready to leave was pretty easy. The taxi came on time, and off I went. It turns out I'm so close to the airport that the easiest way to get there was via surface streets. I checked one bag at the curb and about a minute later I was stripping down to my t-shirt & socks for the TSA. Yeah, that was fun. I neglected to take my laptop out of its bag (who could possibly read all of those little signs scattered everywhere?), so I was flagged for special treatment. I got pulled to the side and had my laptop thoroughly scanned for explosive materials. Hrmph. At least the plane departed right on time and wasn't too, too cramped.

My first stop was in Salt Lake City, Utah, a moderate 40 degrees F. Unfortunately, I landed at the far end of one terminal, and my connecting flight was to depart from the far end of the opposite terminal. It was about a 7-minute brisk walk, at the end of which I barely had a chance to use the restroom and send a text message to a couple friends before it was time to get on the next flight. Standing in the boarding line, suddenly and violently I was shoved from behind. When I turned around, I saw the first familiar face of the day, followed by another -- two fellow UI designers from my team. Onto the plane we went, and after stuffing my big down jacket into a tiny available crevise in the overhead compartment, I stuffed myself into the tiny available crevise known as my seat. It was a window seat, next to a pretty large guy, on a 2-seat row of a rather small plane (I believe it had about 40-50 seats total). I dozed off reading Design of Everyday Things and woke up about 45 minutes later, but two of my right toes and one of my left toes stayed asleep. It was that cramped. As icing on the cake, my right knee was freezing. Subfreezing outside air had been seeping in through a loose tether cover from the emergency exit one row ahead.

We finally landed in all-white Omaha and I had a chance to unfold & restore circulation to my limbs. I extracted my big jacket and got it on & zipped it up all the way before heading outside. As soon as I exited the plane, even in the covered corridor, every exhaled breath became thick with visible condensation like the clouds we had just descended through. It was cold. Really cold. Just ask her:

After everyone from my group met up from the two flights we took in, we got our car rental paperwork confirmed and headed out for a more thorough taste of the chill while one of my coworkers related seeing ECW wrestler Rob Van Damme in the airport just minutes earlier. The vehicle we got was a Suzuki Grand Vitara, a modest-sized, but comfortable SUV. The drive from the airport to the hotel was interesting in that, well, it took a bit of creative navigation by landmarks to get to our destination, thanks to an unforeseen feature in the main road.

After checking in at the Embassy Suites and dropping off our bags, we headed right back out to cruise around town & find a place to eat. After weaving up & down through the largely uninhabited downtown area, I parked about four blocks from the hotel and we did the last bit of surveying on foot. We settled at The Spaghetti Works, a restaurant with a very nice 20's/30's motif, semi-rugged, semi-swank. I hit the open salad bar (electing to go Cobb-style like I usually do) and ordered a custom-built bowtie pasta dish with hot Italian-style sauce and double hot sausage links. For a drink, I got a blueberry-flavored Italian soda that must have been 20 oz. In addition, we each got a couple pieces of bruschetta, and three of us shared a room-temperature chocolate ganache. The ganache was so thick and rich that we immediately got quite the sugar/chocolate high, and silliness ensued, leading to some memorable quotes that stuck with us for the entire trip and caused an untold number of laughs.

"It's like eating a tire."
- Anna F.

"The tar is better."
- Iram M.

You had to have been there.

Back at the hotel, we got all synched up with email & calendars down in the "Business Center" (four little booths, two with computers & two with empty ethernet plugs). After bitterly debating time zones & time offsets, we settled on a gameplan for Tuesday and retired to our adjacent rooms on the 4th floor. The TV selection was mediocre, but while channel-hopping I was very pleasantly surprised to see a "PayPal is hiring" ad in prime time on ABC. I ended up watching MythBusters, Dirty Jobs, and some kickboxing, then checked the Weather Channel before turning out the lights. It was 81 degrees in Honolulu. I dreamed about Honolulu.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Breaking the silence

Well look at that, two weeks since my last update. Perhaps there's been nothing happening that's worth writing about? Har!

This past week, in fact, was spent at PayPal's customer service & anti-fraud center in subfreezing Omaha, Nebraska, shadowing specialists from three groups and attending a day-long summit on key initiatives for 2007. I took 13 pages of handwritten notes, and over the course of the weekend I'll be culling through them and distilling out the public-safe parts, mostly focusing on the out-of-office experiences, for your reading enjoyment.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

"Ouch," said the wallet

Today I visited...
  • Macys
  • JC Penney
  • Another JC Penney
  • Big 5
  • Nordstrom Rack
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • Sears
  • Target
  • Shoe Pavillion
  • A Japanese restaurant

...and purchased...
  • 7 shirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair of casual work shoes
  • 1 suede leather jacket
  • Socks
  • Underpants (yes, I said underpants)
  • 1 wallet
  • 1 paper shredder
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • 1 chicken teriyaki, gyoza, and california roll combo dinner bento box and a tempura hand roll

...and for the trip to Nebraska I added...

  • 1 sweater
  • 1 pair of snowboarding gloves
  • 1 thick jacket
  • 1 pair of insulated boots
  • 1 set of hankerchiefs

Spare change, anyone?