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MoMo All-Hands: Day 4 (Another Gorgeous Day, and then a Dicey Situation at Night)

As usual, I woke up, grabbed a shower, and headed down to breakfast.  The routine was really starting to sink in.

Breakfast was yogurt, croissants, and granola, with little cakes.  Very tasty.  And the weather?  Gorgeous as usual.

After breakfast, we were underway.  There was lots of talk about features in the upcoming version of Thunderbird.  There was a long talk where we batted around ideas on how to reward contributers to Thunderbird.

I got a lot done that day – I’d been having some trouble getting Ubuntu Natty running on my laptop virtual machine, and I finally got it going.  I kicked off a Thunderbird debug build, and got the globalmenu extension I was tinkering with compiled.  I had a segfault to solve, and I dug into that.

Around five, we broke for dinner.  Everybody was going to different places, and I chose an Italian restaurant called Il Lupino with Karen, Gozer, Shane, and Mark Banner.  The restaurant was new, and seemed like they were still getting their act together.  It seemed like there were a lot of waiters standing around not doing much, and only one or two staff running around doing a whole bunch.

It was a bit of a wait, but they fed us bread.  Eventually, dinner arrived, and it was tasty.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel along the beach.  It was a nice, cool night.  There was a super fine mist in the air, which I gather is the Hawaiian version of a light rain.

When we got back to the hotel, a bunch of people were playing XBox in the meeting room.  I watched for a bit, played a few rounds, and eventually called it a night.

Trapped

I headed up to my hotel room, and started getting ready for bed.  As I was brushing my teeth, I noticed something strange about my bathroom.

The bathroom was divided up into two sections.  One section had the sink, a big mirror, and a bathtub.  The other section was where the toilet and the standup shower were.  The sections were divided by a doorway that didn’t have a door to go with.

Or so it seemed.  On closer inspection, it turned out there was a door to go with the doorway.  It was a sliding door, like one might have to out onto a back patio, and it was recessed into the side of the doorway.

I was curious, so I pulled it out to take a look at it:

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27-Jan-2011 04:57, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

The only feature on the door was a little metal plate for sliding it back and forth:

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27-Jan-2011 04:57, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

And you’ll notice that in the center of the little metal plate is a white button.

I’m a naturally curious guy, and I wanted to see how the locking mechanism worked.  So I closed the door, and pressed the white button.

It only took me a few seconds to realize that there was no way to un-press the white button. I had just trapped myself into the toilet/shower side of the doorway.

At first, I thought this was really funny.  What a stupid design for a door!  After a few seconds of laughing at myself, the gravity of my situation started to sink in:

  1. I had no cell phone to call for help.  No roommate who’d be coming in.
  2. Nobody would be looking for me until morning.
  3. The door didn’t have any hinges for me to take apart.  And, because it was a sliding door, it meant that all edges of the door were recessed into the doorframe, which meant no kicking it down.
  4. I’d put the “do not disturb” on my door, so I couldn’t count on the cleaning lady to let me in in the morning.
  5. The space in that section was about the size of two phone-booths combined.  If I had to sleep there, it’d be an uncomfortable night.
  6. It was late, so banging on the walls and making a huge ruckus was probably a last option.  And there was no guarantee that any of the rooms near me were occupied.

It was a sticky situation.  Not life-threatening by any means, but quite a predicament nonetheless.

Macgyver

So, after thoroughly examining the lock, my first step was to take an inventory of my tools:

  1. There were towels and toilet paper.  I didn’t see how I could use those on the lock.
  2. The contents of the toilet tank included the floater ball, and a chain for the drain mechanism.
  3. The shower head was connected to the faucet via a snaky metallic tube that could be disconnected at both ends.
  4. I was carrying my wallet, which had some paper money, and some coins.
  5. I was wearing my belt.
  6. I had shorts on, and the metal tab on my zipper could possibly be used as a screwdriver.

I decided to attack the lock with my belt.  I rammed the swing-arm on the belt buckle into the area between the white button and the metal plate, seeing if I could make some room on either side of it.  I ended up working away some of the plastic on the button, and was able to make some space.

Ok, so now I could wiggle the button back and forth.

Continuing with my belt, I tried to “scoop” the button out – but the plastic was too slippery, and I didn’t seem to be making and progress.  And, at some points, it seemed like the button was going farther in, and I really didn’t want to make my situation any worse.

I switched tools, opened up my change wallet, and pulled out two dimes.  My fingers were too big to pinch the button and pull out, so I tried using the dimes.

It was starting to get hot in there.

With one dime pinched in each hand, I worked them like the world’s most awkward tweezers.  I grabbed the button, squeezed inwards towards the button, and tried to pull out.

The button was slick, and the dimes kept slipping off.  It didn’t look good.

And then…

Suddenly, I had a good grip on the button, and the dimes pulled it out.

I fist-pumped, slid the door open, and enjoyed the cool air.  I’d been trapped for about 25 minutes.  It was good to be out.

And then I took some photos.  Here’s a shot of the toilet/shower room just after I escaped:

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27-Jan-2011 04:57, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

and here’s a shot of my trusty, if clumsy, tools:

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27-Jan-2011 04:57, FUJIFILM FinePix A345, 2.8, 5.8mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 100

 

I went to bed pretty exhilarated.  I was looking forward to telling everybody about this at breakfast the next morning.

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MoMo All-Hands: Day 3 (Data-Driven, Don’t Be Creepy, Italian-Chinese Dinner, Hipster-slamming)

At around 7:30AM, I rolled out of bed, cleaned myself up, and headed down to breakfast.

Breakfast that day was similar to the day before:  yogurt and granola.  Coffee and juice.  The cakes, however, had gotten the axe, and had been replaced by scones.

Very tasty.  A bunch of us ate breakfast out on the meeting room patio.  Once again, it was a gorgeous morning.

After breakfast, we all went inside to talk about data. Specifically, that we aim to be data-driven.  This means that if we’re making a big decision about Thunderbird, or any of the other stuff we’re working on, we should probably have some solid data to back up those decisions.  It’s a good idea; the road to bad design is paved with good intentions, and lack of data.

But how exactly are we going to get this data?  Are we simply going to monitor our users without their knowledge, like Big Brother, and study them like lab rats?  Are we going to collect reams of data about them secretly and silently in the background, without telling our users or giving them a choice?

Of course not, because that’d be evil.  And creepy.  Don’t track me, bro.

Instead, we will always ask the user if they’re interested in submitting data for study.  In general, our data collection is opt-in – and instead of tracking individuals, we aggregate the data, so that we never have a single person as a data point.  Nice.

A lot of ideas got tossed around about how we can ask the users for data, and what type of data we were interested in.  Some very interesting discussions took place regarding the Thunderbird “funnel” (the action path from visiting the Mozilla Thunderbird website, to downloading TB, to installing TB, to running TB, to making TB something commonly used).  Our funnel is pretty wide, but some website tweaks might make it even wider.  I’m excited to hear more about it.

After that, lunch.  Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies…once again, very tasty.  Cake for dessert.  We were getting pretty spoiled.

Following lunch, a bunch of us went outside to hear Andrew Sutherland talk about Wmsy – his constraint-based widgeting framework.  This was one of the talks that took place out on the patio, and the sun was blazing.  Much sunscreen had to go on, and I wish I’d brought sunglasses, because the image of the giant yellow pads of paper-on-easels that Andrew was drawing on was slowly being burnt into my retinas.  And then, sunscreen started getting into my eyes.  And yet, despite the blazing heat, the blinding sun, and the burning chemicals in my eyes, I was able to get a lot out of the talk.  Wmsy is pretty cool, and you should check it out.

After that, we went inside, and there was a bunch of GSoC talk.  Mentors talked about how it was working with GSoC students, and what kind of GSoC students we’d be looking for.  Then, a big brainstorm happened where we came up with potential GSoC projects.

Photo Credit:  Ludovic Hirlimann
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Photo Credit: Ludovic Hirlimann

 

As a former GSoC student, I have to say, it’s a really worthwhile program.  I had an awesome summer doing GSoC.  Highly recommended.  Thumbs up, Google.

After that, the meetings were over.  I headed upstairs to talk to my parents and Emily on Skype for a bit, and then headed down to the lobby for dinner.  A group of us were eating at “Chow Mein”, an Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant.

It was pretty good. Fettuccine on one side of my plate, barbecue pork fried rice on the other, and some salad…a delicious and eclectic meal.  As an added bonus, while refilling our glasses, our waiter told us in excruciating detail about how he got pulled over for DUI on his birthday.  On that note, we had a fantastic dessert, and then left.

The sun was down, and we walked slowly along the beach back towards the hotel.  We stopped off at the beach-side patio to hang out a bit first.

Photo Credit: Blake Winton
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Photo Credit: Blake Winton

 

We raced Mai Tai umbrellas, and trash-talked hipsters.  It was probably the most hipster thing I did in Hawaii.

And speaking of hipsters (mildly NSFW):

Eventually, I made it back to my hotel room, and fell asleep.

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MoMo All-Hands: Day 1

A Delicious Flight

After waking up, cleaning up, and eating, I was more or less ready to go.  Blake was stopping by around 11:30AM with the airport taxi, and I had about an hour to myself.  I decided that now would be a wonderful opportunity to purchase some flying snacks from the nearby convenience store.

Moments later, I was browsing the shelves.  I grabbed some granola bars, and some raisins.  On my way out, I saw some flatbread, and was immediately reminded of the time that my friend Doug offered me some flatbread with roasted red pepper hummus on it.  And I remembered that it was delicious.  Immediately, I was hit by a craving, grabbed the flatbread, and went to go find the hummus.

Eventually, I zeroed in on the hummus section.  Unfortunately, the tub of roasted red pepper hummus that I found was about the right size for a whole family, and I thought that’d be a bit of a waste (since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to refridgerate it upon landing).  So I dug around in the shelves until I found a smaller tub, grabbed it, paid, and left.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:  “Mike – this minutia is really of no interest to me.  Am I really going to have to hear about the food you bought and ate?  Is this how these posts are going to go?”.  Just rest assured, I’m bringing this up for a reason.  The hummus comes into play later.

Blake arrived, I hopped into the car, and we were off.  We compared snacks:  Blake was packing some awesome-looking homemade banana bread with chocolate chips.

It was going to be a delicious flight.

A Newbie Goes Through Security

It’d been a little while since I’d been through airport security, and I had forgotten some of the moves.  I did my best to follow Blake’s example – I pulled out my laptop to be screened independently.  I tossed down my jacket.  I lined it all up all neat and tidy for the little luggage car-wash to scan it.

Soon, it was my turn to walk through the metal detector.  In front of me, Blake had sailed through and was already getting his stuff off of the conveyer belt.

I walked through the gate.  BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

“Sir, do you have anything in your pockets?”

Oh yeah.  I had everything in my pockets.  Wallet, keys, cell-phone, belt, watch, I’d forgotten all of it.  So there I am, scrambling to void my pockets of their contents, and tossing them into a little bowl to be scanned.

Security was not impressed.

After an extremely thorough wand-scanning, I was eventually let through.  I gathered my stuff up, and hurried over to Blake.

The Storage Seat

We reached our terminal without incident.  We had an hour to kill before boarding, and chatted about the upcoming meeting, science fiction, Ricky Gervais, video games.  Boarding was a piece of cake.

Although we had booked our tickets seperately, somehow, our seats were in the same row.  There was a lone seat in between us.  The plane filled up…and filled up…and the seat remained empty.  Suddenly it dawned on me:  Blake and I were probably about to get a free storage seat between us.  Awesome-sauce.

I became so excited about the middle seat that I was starting to sweat everytime someone else came onto the plane.  One or two stragglers would saunter on, and I was sure the jig was up.  But somehow, someway, it didn’t happen.  The storage seat was saved.  It immediately became home to a host of overflow items.

Take-off

It was at this point that the captain came on the horn to tell us that there was a problem.  During the safety check, he found out his oxygen mask wasn’t working.  Maintenance would be sending a part over, and it’d take somewhere around 30 minutes to get it all sorted.

30 minutes later, we were underway, and hurtling down the tarmac.  Eventually, the seatbelt sign was turned off.  I reached for my book.  It was going to be a long flight (approx 6 hours).

That’s when the flight attendant announced that the water wasn’t running in the front bathroom.  So we were down to one bathroom.  The girl across the aisle from me groaned audibly.

Moments later, we found out that our in-flight movies were not working.  The same girl groaned even louder, whipped out her cellphone, and began texting furiously.  I was reminded of this Louis C.K. bit on Conan…

It was an uneventful flight.  Blake and I chatted a bit, and then I read, and he listened to music.  There was a Mythbusters marathon on the on-board television, so that was entertaining.  I learned today that if a diver in one of those old-school scuba suits is down 300 feet, and suddenly has his air supply cut off…the waterpressure is strong enough to compress all of his organs into his helmet like a human meatball.  Gross. Thanks Mythbusters.

Landing, and the Hummus Incident

Landing was no biggie.  The captain came on the horn again to tell us that they had to cut power the plane in order to get the bridge attached to us.  As the lights went out, I could see the light of a cellphone illuminate the face of the girl across the aisle.  Texting commenced at a furious pace.  I don’t think she was very happy with the flight.

Next, Blake and I meandered our way to U.S. security and customs.  Along the way, we helped a mother and daughter find their New Zealand flight.  While in the line-up, I realized that I was still carrying a bottle of water that I’d purchased in the Toronto airport.  And it was still more or less full.

To avoid embarrassment, I chugged it back.  The whole half-litre.  Dazed from over-hydration, I tossed all of my gear, pockets and all, upon the security conveyor belt like a boss.  I was determined to do this like a pro, and gave Blake the “I know what I’m doing this time” eyebrows.

Shoeless, beltless, pockets emptied, I passed through the metal detector like a marathon runner at the end of a race.  Not a sound from the machine.  It was glorious.

“Step over this way, sir”.

I was suddenly redirected to security, and told to empty my backpack.

As the security guard rummaged, my hummus fell out, and wobbled onto the table.

Suddenly, all eyes went to the hummus.

“Sir, what is this?”

“It’s hummus.”

“No, it’s not.”  I looked closer.  Damn it, I’d been duped by similar packaging.  It was full-blown dip, not hummus.  So much for healthy snacking.

“Oh, sorry, it’s dip.  Not hummus.  Dip.”

Pause.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to stay right here.”

I had started to sweat a little.  Meanwhile, Blake was getting his shoes on, and was eyeing me curiously.

“It’s the hummus,” I said.  He mouthed “Oh”.

3 or 4 minutes later, I was shuttled over to an official looking desk, where an official looking guard was presiding over my very fraudulant hummus.

“I thought it was hummus.  You can keep the dip.  I don’t want to the dip.  You can have the dip.”  I kept saying.  I was worried that they thought I’d lied to them while calling it hummus.  Or was there some sort of dip embargo?  What the hell was going on?

“I don’t want the dip,” the tired looking employee said to me.  He had a thousand-yard stare going on.  This guy was not a fan of his job – at least not today.

“Your boarding pass says that you came in from Toronto.  They should have stopped it at security over there”.  He jabbed a finger at the dip.  “This is over 50 millilitres of liquid.  They shouldn’t have let it through.”

I made a weak attempt at humor by mentioning that the dip wasn’t exactly a liquid, and was more like handcream.  He didn’t seem amused.  I cut the crap and shut my mouth.

He then spent 5 minutes collecting all of my personal identification, and taking photos of me with the security camera.  He assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, and that, in fact, Toronto airport security was in trouble.  I remarked that I hoped nobody was going to lose their job over this.  He grunted, handed me my boarding pass, and wished me a good day.

Dip-less, I walked back to Blake, gathered up all of my stuff, and we started walking towards our departure gate.

A Chance Encounter

We had stopped by a Tim Hortons to grab some food, when Blake nudged me.

“Come this way,” he said.  I followed him back to the Tim Hortons line-up

“Mike Conley, meet David Ascher.  David Ascher, meet Mike Conley.”

So it turned out that David Ascher, CEO of Mozilla Messaging, and my new boss, was taking the same flight with his wife.  We said hello, and chatted a bit, and then headed towards our gate.

Huh.  What were the chances?

We boarded without incident.  Blake and I weren’t sitting together on this flight – I was sitting next to some charming older ladies who were slamming back the in-flight alcohol like it was going out of style.

In Hawaii

It was a hard leg of the flight.  After approximately forever, we landed.  This was at about 10PM Hawaii time, or 3AM Toronto time.  At this point, I’d been awake for about 19 hours.  I was exhausted, groggy, and probably dehydrated.

A section of the airport terminal had no windows.  It was warm out, but not uncomfortably so.  It was a bit humid.  I saw palm trees in the shadows.

Eventually, David, his wife, Blake and myself were able to hail a cab.  We whisked through the Hawaiian night.  I remember thinking that the outside part Hawaii we were driving through seemed like an interesting mix of industrial and tourist.  Kind of like if Niagara Falls and Hamilton were smashed together.

Finally, we pulled up to our hotel.  After checking in, my body had pretty much given up.

It’s funny how 19 hours of just sitting still in a chair will exhaust you.

Before reaching the elevators, we ran into a few more members of the team who’d arrived before us.  There were quick introductions (too quick – I’d have to ask for names again later on), and then we were up to our rooms.

Inside my room, I dumped by bag, plugged in my laptop, and sent a few e-mails to let people know I had arrived safely.  I prepared for bed.

As I rummaged through my luggage, something was bugging me…

“Hm…let’s see…shorts, pants, underwear, shirts…”

My eyes went wide.

No socks.

I hadn’t brought socks.

Click here to go to Part 2.

Click here to go back to the introduction.

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MoMo All-Hands. In Hawaii.

It’s been a little while since I posted.  Well, I’ve been busy.

In Hawaii.

That’s right.  Hawaii.  Mozilla Messaging just sent the entire team to Hawaii for an all-hands meeting.  And, believe it or not, we got a hell of a lot done.  It’s amazing how productive people can be in shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and sandals!  No joke!

It was also an opportunity for me to meet my new teammates.  It’s a fantastic group, and a very warm welcome.  They’re smart, committed, quirky, and hilarious.  I think I’m really going to enjoy working with this team.

Anyhow, I had a great time, and learned a lot.

And I took notes.

Here’s part 1…

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