Because I am a lucky duck, I got to go flying in a Piper last week. My first small plane experience!

I met my coworker’s Dad at Palo Alto airport. The plan was to fly across the bay to pick up two of my coworkers (one of them his daughter) at Hayward airport.

I watched him go through all the preflight checks. I didn’t want to interrupt so I just kept my mouth shut and tried to remember everything. Then we got in the plane. Controls and gauges galore! He said I could ask any questions I wanted, but I didn’t want to be distracting or talk over air traffic communications so I continued to keep my mouth shut and tried to remember some more.

Taxi. Get in line. Rev the engine. Our turn. Here we go!

It’s amazing how little speed it takes to get a plane off the ground. I could feel us gliding through the air as we climbed. Kind of trippy. Crazy cool.

A lever here, a knob there. Punching in numbers (air traffic frequencies). Punching in more numbers (transponder code).

Neighborhoods. Infrastructure. Trails.

Lots of tennis courts.

A few minutes later, Hayward. We did two landings, the first for licensing currency. Picked up my coworkers and we were off again. Same drill.

Spotted some REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT tags on planes at the airport. That’s the first time I’ve seen them used for their intended purpose.

We flew north up the East Bay. I picked out my old apartment in Berkeley as well as the lab I worked in. Then we headed west over Angel Island and swung north again to head toward Mount Tamalpais. At this point I remembered that I’d forgotten to turn on my GPS to track the flight. Oh well.

When we reached Tamalpais we turned left toward the mountain to swing south. It was pretty amazing to look straight out the window and see the mountain level with the plane.

We got permission to fly through SFO airspace, so we headed back to Palo Alto straight down the Peninsula. Saw an A380 taxiing at SFO. It made the adjacent 737s and A320s look like toys.

Lots of helicopters along 101. Traffic reporters?

Hung a left over Moffett Field and then we were back on the ground in Palo Alto. That was so cool! I asked tons of questions at dinner about all the controls. I wanted to know what each dial and lever did and how that affected the plane. I learned about airspaces (they’re shaped like inverted wedding cakes) and air traffic communications and fit this into everything I’d heard over the course of the flight.

This flight demystified a lot about my understanding of basic plane function and air traffic procedures. I am so thrilled and grateful to have experienced it.

I was super tired when I got home and fell asleep a couple hours before my usual bedtime. I think my brain was overwhelmed by everything it had just taken in. I haven’t observed and learned that intensely since I was a kid.

Maybe that’s why kids sleep so much.


Over a year and a half after ordering my Coin, it finally arrived last week.

I thought I’d write up my thoughts on the experience.

November 2013: Wowowowowow!!! Best idea evar! Sign me up!!

Q1 2014: Wait.
Q2 2014: Wait…
Q3 2014: Where’s my Coin?
Q4 2014: Install Android app. Does nothing except eat resources. Uninstall. Wait some more.

Q1 2015: Wait, am I waiting? I forgot.
Q2 2015: Most of my credit cards are replaced with chip and signature cards. Still waiting.

End of Q2: My Coin arrives. I get over general annoyance about the fact that I won’t be able to use this card for any of my chip and signature cards if I’m at a chip enabled terminal.

Setup: The audio jack card reader sucks ass. It takes me several swipes per card to read everything in. Feel annoyed all over again.

Usage: I’ve used my coin for a little over a week now. I’m able to pay with it at about 50% of merchants. The 50% success rate is generally after more than one swipe. The 50 failure rate is generally after 3 failed swipes.

Conclusion: The swipe success rate is more than a little disappointing. As was the setup experience. And the long wait. And the fact that even if this card worked its utility as a stripe-only card would be phased out before the battery ran out.

Coin was a huge disappointment. That’s okay. I invested in an idea. Not all ideas pan out.

– – –

Update: 2015-11-01 @ 9:26 AM

Setting up a new phone today. Didn’t bother to install the Coin app.

Removed the card from my wallet.


As part of Megan’s 45 in 45 she mailed 45 postcards to 45 people. Ooh, fun project! Pick me, pick me!

Here’s what arrived in the mail:

The front of the postcard read, “The T”. I was puzzled for a moment, as the only T trolleys I know are green.

On the other side, a message! Yay! And also a description:

PCC Trolley, Mattapan Station, Red Line Connector, The T

The T is the fourth busiest subway system in the United States (NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco). The entire system — which includes subways, buses, ferries, trains, and trolleys — averages over a million passenger trips each weekday.

Mattapan! I’ve always wondered what that connector looked like. Now I know.

Thanks Megan!


“This street up ahead,” I said, pointing at Washington St., “There was a store here that didn’t have any products or shelves, just catalogs, and you would pick what you wanted and bring it to the counter and they’d give you your item. What was it called?”

“Sherman’s!” Dad replied, “Like Service Merchandise, but they had a conveyor belt.”

Sherman’s sounded right, even though I couldn’t find any trace of Sherman’s the catalog merchant on the Google-net. But a search for Service Merchandise returned a slew of childhood discount department store memories:

Zayre, the place we bought my pink snow boots in elementary school. Bradlees, the slightly nicer and closer but more expensive store that’s now a giant Chinese supermarket indoor mall. Caldor, just a little too far for Mom to comfortably navigate on a regular basis. Ames, which took over the Zayre space. Lechmere, which I went to maybe once because it wasn’t someplace Mom could drive to.

According to Wikipedia, they’re all gone now:

Zayre was a chain of discount stores that operated in the eastern half of the United States from 1956 to 1990. Bradlees was a chain of discount department stores, which operated primarily in the Northeastern United States. Caldor is a defunct regional discount department store chain that operated from 1951 until 1999, primarily in the northeastern United States and New England. Ames was an American chain of discount stores based in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, USA. Lechmere was a New England retail store that closed in 1997.

I wonder what today’s kids will remember. How will they describe their memory of Amazon.com?

Spidey’s Big Adventure

Soo… I got a mini drone for Christmas.

Shortly after unwrapping, Aaron showed me an article about people getting their Christmas drones stuck in trees. “That won’t happen to me,” I thought.

I learned to fly it indoors over the next day. It’s really maneuverable, and unlike my mini helicopters I was able to fly it from room to room, down hallways, and land with fairly decent precision.

There’s a little camera on the bottom. It’s low resolution and needs a lot of light, so I thought I’d take it out in the sun and stage a hello from few feet overhead. I charged it up and brought it out to the front yard.

I started it up and it hovered at 4 feet with a bit of lateral drift. Wind, maybe? I gave it a little bump to bring it up a few feet for the picture. It lifted, then continued to lift. In seconds, it was 40 feet in the air above my neighbor’s backyard. I tried to get it to land but it didn’t respond. Emergency! I hit the kill switch. It dropped from the sky.

Which yard had it landed in? It had fallen over an area where several backyards meet, so there were several possibilities. I started with my next door neighbors. We searched their yard thoroughly, then peeked over the fence to their neighbor’s yard. No drone. I walked around to the next best possibility. Nobody home. I kept walking, met a couple new families, and one point, had 3 kids, a mom, and a pair of grandparents scouring their backyard with me. I was finally able to get my phone to reconnect with the drone while there, and with the last bit of remaining battery, turned on the propellers. We heard it on the other side of the fence, in one of the two yards I’d started with.

I paid my next door neighbors another visit. Their son had arrived, and he and his dog helped me search their yard yet again. No drone. I then visited my next next door neighbors, and they and their dog helped me search. No drone. Finally I went home, wrote a note (In cursive!) to the neighbors who weren’t home, and waited.

The neighbors called this morning and told me it was okay for me to come look for my drone. As I got ready to visit after my game this morning, the doorbell rang. It was my next door neighbors. They had big smiles on their faces, pruning shears, and my drone.

“Where did you find it??!”
“It was in the apple tree. I thought it was bird at first, but it didn’t move!”

And so, Spidey is home. I’m glad it didn’t rain last night. I’ll be keeping Spidey indoors from now on.

Here’s the picture I was going for, staged in the living room:

Sock Monkey flying a drone? No wonder it got away!

I had a nice little adventure as well. I enjoyed meeting so many of my neighbors. As one of them noted, we don’t do that much here in California.

Labbit on the Loose

My Nexus 5 went on a little adventure last night.

I’m a creature of habit. By that, I don’t mean I won’t try new things, but for everyday things I establish routines to minimize the amount of brainpower required to manage the mundane.

One of these routines is where I keep my keys, wallet, and phone on my Caltrain commute. My keys get clipped and my wallet gets slipped into my backpack. My phone lives either in my hands or my back pocket, attached to me via earbuds.

Last night, Aaron and I had dinner in the city. I put my earbuds away on the train ride back to talk to him. Right before our stop, we had a skirmish over control of the phaser gun on my backpack.

We got off the train. I reminded Aaron to tag off. I was so proud of myself for remembering!

One block from the train station, I reached for my phone. It wasn’t in its car holder. Uh-oh.

When we got home, I asked Aaron to call me. No phone.

I fired up the Android Device Manager site.

“Enter the verification code generated by your mobile application.”

Thank goodness for backup codes.

The device manager map showed my phone on the train, now in Palo Alto. At Aaron’s suggestion, we hopped in the car and drove to the final stop. We made it there with a few minutes to spare.

The train pulled up and we jumped aboard the car we were in. People looked at us funny. We searched and searched for the phone. They closed the doors on us. “Hello?” I asked, pushing buttons on the doors. We made our way to the frontmost car and exited. No phone.

Back at home, I pulled up Android Device Manager again. My phone had made it to the Central Equipment Maintenance & Operations Facility. Was it still on the train, or had someone turned it into lost and found? I had planned to wipe it, but instead I remote locked it with a special message and contact number, then submitted a Caltrain Lost and Found form. “Background image is of a bunny with a mustache.”

The next morning, my phone was still at the facility. It was well into commute hours so I felt pretty confident that it wasn’t still on the train. I wondered if I should get a replacement SIM for my Nexus 4, since I didn’t know how long it would take to get my phone back. I knew if I did that I would lose remote contact with my phone, so I decided to hold off until the afternoon, or when my phone ran out of battery.

I checked again in the late morning. My phone was on the move! It was heading north on 280. I hoped it was on its way to the Caltrain offices in San Carlos, where negligent phone owners go to collect their devices.

A little while later it arrived at the Caltrain offices. I headed down there, explained to the security guard what I was there for, and he put me on the phone with the Lost and Found guy. I apologized for jumping the gun (their posted policy is “don’t call us we’ll call you”), then explained that I knew my phone had arrived and I wanted to reach it before it ran out of battery. He was super understanding and nice about it and brought my phone to the lobby.

One press of the button and I immediately exclaimed, “Omigosh, it’s my bunny. Yay, my phone!”

I was pretty excited. We talked about how they identify phones. Not wiping my device was definitely the right thing to do in this case.

Once reunited with my Nexus 5, I thought about everything that had happened in a mere 14 hours. I have to say, I am pretty impressed with Caltrain’s lost and found system, although I definitely lucked out because (1) my phone ended up in lost and found and (2) I live near their office for pickup.

I am also impressed with Android Device Manager, which allowed me to track my phone during its journey. I would have had a much different lost and found experience without it. If you have an Android phone and haven’t activated Device Manager yet, Do It. Now. It will save your butt.

In a nutshell, I’m a lucky duck. I got my phone back and the whole process was painless with super fast turnaround.

Huge kudos to Caltrain and Google for making all this possible.

Welcome back, Labbit.

Month One

Next week marks one month at New Job.

The Commute

I actually enjoy my commute, probably because I haven’t had the misfortune of getting stuck in a Caltrain calamity yet.

I’m writing this post on Caltrain right now.

I polished off a few magazines, then put an issue of Make in my bag. I haven’t read much since. Apparently I’m not much of a Maker.

The Food

The food continues to be tasty. With the exception of Goat Hill meeting pizza (which I quite enjoy), I don’t think I’ve had the same thing twice yet. How is that possible?

Food is more expensive in the city, but since we get catered lunch once or twice a week it balances out my former 5 day a week tab.

The Coffee

I’ve stopped buying lattes every day and started to brew coffee every which way at the office. We have our choice of Nespresso, Hario V60 drip, Aeropress, French press, and plain old cone filter coffee machine. We also stock a selection of beans from Philz. I continue to be well caffeinated.

Still haven’t visited the Starbucks down the street.

The Weather

I also continue to be quite lucky in terms of the weather. I really need to get off my butt and get serious about coat shopping.

The Gym Routine

There’s a 24 Hour Fitness about a 7 minute jog from the office. I’ve taken to jogging* there for my warmup, throwing around some weights, and walking back. I love that I can go to the gym during the day again. That’s one thing I couldn’t easily do at my last job, and because I dislike crowded gym hours my strength training suffered. Now I’m getting strong again.

* Yes, it’s true. I’ve been gettin’ mah supple leopard on.

Other Random Stuff

I walk a lot more. There’s a lot within a ~15 minute radius of the office. That’s another nice change from my last job.

I was surprised to find that I also skateboard more. It’s definitely not easy and not even feasible if I’m headed somewhere hilly, but it’s a great alternative to walking places over 10 minutes away. Earlier this week I took the Penny board to Zynga for lunch. A couple weeks ago I brought the Mini Maestro to Sunnyvale for the NCWHL board meeting.

Pretty happy overall. But really, when am I not?

– – –

Update: 2014-08-19 @ 9:05 AM

Month One isn’t up yet so let’s tack on an update.

Lest you think San Francisco life is all tasty food and skateboarding, I will note that there’s a lot of random shit up here. Everywhere. Literally. Often smeared across the sidewalk. And I’m pretty sure some of it is of the human variety.

That said, I decided to write about this after dodging some shit on my way back from the new bakery that just opened a block from my office. TastyFood++