San Francisco, New York, and London

“Users don’t know what your tech back-end looks like. Focus instead on getting the user experience right.” – Vinicius Vacanti
After an underwhelming Wild Card weekend and a gloomy stay in Seattle, I was looking forward to my day in California.
This place really feels like home! Maybe because it once was.
It also feels exotic as anything. I don’t think I’d be nearly so interested in photographing downtown Palo Alto or Mountain View if I lived here.
Monday morning, my whirlwind tour started off with a breakfast with Vinny, who I think works harder than I do (if that’s possible), and Michael, who I think might possibly care about Skyrove just as much as I do (if that’s possible).
We actually did make it up to San Francisco for a meeting followed by lunch with my parents, the last time I’m going to see them for a while. Afterwards we headed back down to the Valley. San Francisco feels like a bit of a detour for me when I’m staying in that part of the world. But then again, I’m apparently a regular: I knew how to get to Cathleen’s house without GPS, and from Cathleen’s to downtown Palo Alto without hitting the highway (which doesn’t move).
Seriously, heck with the traffic. I can see why people bike to work. After a quick visit to possibly my favourite person yet in the Wi-Fi industry, we went to the offices of another one of my favourite people. Zach became even more in my favour when I discovered that he repairs and races cars in his spare time. Well, he has to make up for not liking football somehow.
In all seriousness, though, after taking an hour to bring Michael up to speed on what I already know, which I joke about but was a useful refresher for me on the details, we did a bit of a technical dive and nearly put him to sleep. But I had to understand how the thing actually worked.
It’s like puzzle pieces. Scratch that: it IS puzzle pieces. And along the way I’m making some friends. I can’t wait for London in June! The next WBA conference is going to be completely different from the first one. Including the martinis. Especially the martinis.
Dinner with a wider crew was good fun, and included a pretty expansive talk about internet privacy, and who we trusted less: Google or Facebook. It was very interesting to watch the boys debate.
I unfortunately had to leave before dessert, which gave me a good excuse to leave before dessert, to catch my red eye back to JFK. SJC is the CPT of Bay Area airports: you get in and out quickly and easily, and it’s clean and modern. The flight itself was less fun for me because I was busy writing followups to the meetings earlier in the day and couldn’t get myself to sleep until it was so late that I only got about four hours of sleep before we landed.
New York was cold! I did the whole AirTrain to subway thing, and then what was supposed to be a quick errand took several hours. Story of the week, actually. Afterwards, too exhausted to be feeling much of anything other than exhausted, I realised that it was now a much warmer day so I took a walk of about twenty blocks up to the Bloomberg offices to meet a new friend, who was kind enough to let me crash on her couch for the night, and hang out on her Wi-Fi in the afternoon. The Bloomberg offices were a trip, it was kind of surreal, and a strange combination of Wall Street trading floor and TV studio.
We went for an awesome dinner and talk. I will say one thing for this lovely lady: she is driven. Confident, fearless, competent, and with a purpose. Oh, and did I mention she’s gorgeous? But so super awesome that I’m not sure you could hate her. Unless, of course, she was your boss and you were a slacker. I love people like this, the sort that just radiate enthusiasm and make you want to be better.
A five-hour nap later I was at JFK, waiting in probably the longest series of lines I’ve ever had to wait in for check in, then for security. I was so tired in fact that by the time I got to the plane, I drank my large coffee and immediately fell asleep. Yes I was that tired.
What happened next was a new one for me, in all my years of long haul travel. When we were about 45 minutes away from landing, they announced that due to electrical problems at Heathrow, we were landing at Gatwick to refuel. I am not sure what actually happened. They told us that there were electrical problems at Heathrow and no planes were taking off or landing, but my new friend’s friend was taking off from Heathrow while we were sitting on the ground at Gatwick and still being told Heathrow was down for the count. By the time we had refuelled and been given the go ahead to go to Heathrow, the plane had to be de-iced, then we had to wait for a tow out, and then we had to watch the safety video again because we’d been in the ground more than an hour. All told, we were 2.5 hours late to Heathrow and by the time we arrived many of us, I think about 40 people total, had missed our various connecting flights.
The girl sitting next to me, Natalia, was literally in tears because this delay was causing her to miss her friend’s wedding. Adding insult to injury, she had just flown from London to New York the day before. Why? Because her flight was JFK-CPT round trip with a stop in London. Since she was already in London she wanted to skip the first leg of her trip, but the airline wouldn’t let her do that and said doing so would invalidate the entire ticket, and that she must board in New York. So she spent $500 on a plane ticket to go across the Atlantic back to New York, only to have this happen to her.
Airlines and their stupid rules. I probably would have been in tears too. As it was, I just had to re-arrange two days worth of meetings. Sub-optimal, but acceptable.
The airline put us up in a hotel overnight, but since we were so late to arrive we were never fed dinner either on the plane or at the hotel. That made me a bit unhappy. Involuntary intermittent fasting.
The next morning I ate half the buffet, probably, before catching up on email. Natalia and I went into the city for lunch with her friend and a quick tour of the Natural History Museum beforehand. I was, in the meantime, enthralled with the free public Wi-Fi in the Underground. It’s so cool. Once you connect, it only works in the stations but because the transit time between is relatively quick in Central London you send your email and then it syncs when you get to the next station. Same goes for web pages you try and load from Twitter.
I was similarly enthralled with my meeting that afternoon, pretty literally right across the street from the old, and I think current, Ask Jeeves offices. My old stomping grounds! It was very exciting. So was the unexpected film crew, a bunch of cats from Ruckus Wireless. It kind of made my day when I landed in Cape Town and saw that not only had Ruckus tweeted about me, but it was a hell of a compliment. CrossFitters, this would be the like the guys from Rogue complimenting you on your technique or something. Or Carl Paoli telling you that you resemble a Games athlete he coaches.
So thank you, Virgin Atlantic. Also thanks to the airline for letting us check our bags around noon time for an evening flight. Normally you can’t check bags until check-in opens. Maybe this was because Heathrow is Virgin’s hub or maybe the U.S. rules are more restrictive. Either way, it was super convenient.
Finally landed in Cape Town, to a not-too-hot day. Normally I sleep well on long-haul flights but for some reason, this time I didn’t. They let me back in the country although I had a brief scare at immigration when the lady wanted ‘proof’ that I worked for the company my work permit said I did. I do have such proof on my laptop but  my battery was dead. She asked how she could get proof so I told her she could call the South African Consulate in New York who had granted the permit. Clearly this was too much trouble so she let me in. Gotta love it.
I didn’t start this post with that quote above for no reason. Here’s the thing: simple is good. Best of breed is good. A lot of things are good. But you know what? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Customers don’t care how the sausage gets made.
They just want good sausage.
  • “$3 an hour! That’s crazy!” “No, that’s San Francisco!” – Michael & Ellie
  • “It’s sort of a non-architecture architecture strategy.” – Steven
  • “Now I see why you said he was so interesting!” – Michael
  • “ is way over most people’s heads.” – Zach
  • “As much as they’re watching me, I’m watching them!” – Vinny
  • “You’re the second person to actually read that – you are meant to just sign and not read it. Really, you have too much time on your hands. I suggest you take a sport like Cross Fit.” – Mike
  • “You understood it!” – Marjorie
  • “I’m on about day 10 right now so I should be feeling pretty good right about now.” – Ellie

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