Paris Attacks at the Stadium

I’m here in Paris for a work event with about 600 other co-workers. Last night we all had the night off and me and 2 colleagues decided to go see the France vs. Germany soccer match.  We bought some tickets online and thought we were in for a super fun night.

Little did we know what would happen. In the morning, this would be the headlines from the papers:

The match started and our seats were fantastic. We were right on the left sideline with a great view of Martial. He was incredible and scored a great goal.

About 10 minutes before half, at 9:15pm, everyone in the stadium heard a massive BOOM. It was loud and I immediately said to Jon, “that sounds like a bomb.”  Even the players noticed.  However, everyone went back to watching the game and the players kept playing.  Here’s how it sounded:

About 5 minutes later, right before half, another BOOM. It was loud. Having never been to a soccer match in the French stadium, i thought that maybe it was something that happens regularly.  Nobody seemed to be miffed about it, so i thought it was just part of the scene.

At halftime, i was standing in line for the restroom with Jon. We saw all the security guards start to close all the gates to the stadium, locking us in. We thought that was pretty strange. We told our other friend Marc, who has lived in France before, about it. He said that it was typical so they can route everyone out a central exit when the game is over. Seemed like a logical answer. We went on watching the game. You can see from this picture that we weren’t yet aware of what was happening:

I really started to think things weren’t right when i noticed there were about 10x more security standing between the crowd and the field. At this point you would think we would be freaking out, but we weren’t. We asked the people behind us if they knew anything. Nothing. Nobody knew a thing and the game continued. Nobody knew that the two blasts were bombs exploding outside the stadium at a fast food restaurant and a brasserie.  Nobody knew that the French President who was at the game was secretly evacuated.

About 15 minutes into halftime, at 9:40, there was another BOOM.  Again nobody paid it any attention and continued to watch the game. When the game finished, we were walking out of the stadium when there was a general announcement that there was an incident outside one part of the stadium.  There was a collective “hmm, that’s interesting,” and they continued to the exits. It was calm but you could lots of sirens going on outside the stadium.

As we were exiting, you could see hundreds of police and hear lots of sirens.  Then, the stadium something happened. I’m not exactly sure what it was but the people at the front of the crowd turned around scared shitless and started running as fast as they could back into the stadium. Everyone else started doing that too. It turned into a stampede. Older people and kids fell to the ground and were getting trampled.  We ran too.  After getting away (about 400 yards) from the area that people were running from jon and I reconnected with Marc and walked the opposite direction. At this point, kids were bawling and sirens were blasting. It was clear that the world was not right. We were very scared, but still in the dark about what was happening.

We finally got out of the stadium and called an Uber.  Miraculously one got to us and we told him to take us home as fast as possible. We got a call from another colleague was at a hotel.  He was walking to dinner when he came across a man in the middle of the street waving a gun. He then saw someone who was shot pouring blood. He ran to a restaurant to get cover, but they weren’t letting people in so he kept running. Eventually he got inside and called us.  Our Uber arrived about 15 minutes later to grab him and we all continued back to our listing.

My night wasn’t nearly as scary as his or some of my other colleagues but it was still unnerving. Not knowing whats happening and seeing fear on the faces of everyone in the crowd is terrifying.

When we got back to our apartment, we got online and devoured the news for hours.  It was then that we learned the facts of the night. The scariest event being the massacre at the Bataclan music club.

At that club, a few gunmen entered with AK rifles and opened fire on the 1500 people.  Most people ran to the exits. Many fell to the ground and tried to cover themselves.  The gunmen continued to fire for 10-15 minutes on the people who were laying on the ground. They reloaded 4 times. Here’s a quote from one survivor,

Ten minutes … 10 horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head. We heard so many gunshots and the terrorists were very calm, very determined. They reloaded three or four times their weapons. They didn’t shout anything. They didn’t say anything. They were unmasked and wearing black clothes and they were shooting at people on the floor, executing them.

What we know now, the next day, is that there were killings in 7 different locations and about 160 people are confirmed dead. It’s still unclear how many are injured. We also learned that the stadium bombs were supposed to go off later, when we were exiting the stadium and not during the match.

We found out today that there were 3 terrorist outside the stadium.  The first tried to get into the stadium and when security discovered the bomb on his chest, he backed away and detonated. Then the 2nd one went off 5 minutes later.  The police then found the 3rd person and as they pursued him, he donated himself.   This is why the police at the stadium wanted us to stay in the arena. I’m so thankful that their plan failed.

My company picked Paris in November as the time and location for our big annual conference to send 600 employees. We also choose Friday night as the night to spend out exploring the city. Almost everyone spent the night in and around the areas of the shootings. Talk about bad timing. While many of them were next to the events, luckily nobody was harmed.

I feel extremely lucky and now all my thoughts are around getting home and getting back to my family.

Looking back at 2011

Some things i’ll remember about 2011:

Steve Jobs’ Death & Legacy. As Esquire says…

No one ever died the way Steve Jobs died. Other people have died of cancer. Other people have died in the public eye.  But no one has ever died with the inexorable logic of their mortality feeding into a logic of expectation that they themselves created and aroused.

Reading about Steve Jobs in 2011 was a terrific experience.  He inspired me to take my passion in products to the next level.  He was truly a special individual and will be missed.

Mavericks vs. Heat. The stage was set: a team of underdogs who lost to the Heat in 2006 vs. a team of selfish divas. Down 2-1 and nearly 3-1, the scappy Mavs fought back and took the title in the most exciting NBA Finals I’ve ever seen. Continue reading “Looking back at 2011”

Tools of the Trade

A startup really consumes your life. Luckily i have a suite of sweet tools to keep my efficient and productive.  My favorites: icons

Balsalmiq.  This is sick wireframing software.  It’s so easy and intuitive, it can allow anyone to make fairly decent wires.  It’s also a great way to get ideas across to other people.   Doing a full-screen demo of wires always seems to impress people.

YuuGuu.  If you want to share your screen to another person to either do a demo or just display a problem, this is the best way to do it. We’ve tried a bunch of different types (such as Vyew) and this is by far the best.

Dropbox.  We’re not the only one who loves this.   In fact, on the Balsalmiq blog they wrote, “If you don’t use DropBox, I will shake my head at you in disapproval.”  Dropbox is a network file times 1000.  It’s incredible.  We put lots of files into Dropbox as a way to share.   In fact, i’m about to start using it as a way to share all my files across my computers and my girlfriend’s.  A great way to just do backup to another machine.

Skype.  This remains the best way to do voice-to-voice communication.  It’s also a damn good IM client.  Haven’t experimented with the screen sharing yet.

Jing.  For debugging, there is nothing better than Jing.  If you don’t know Jing, here’s the use case it solves: (1) click a button, select an area of your screen, capture a video of that area for as long as you want, click to stop and here’s a URL of that video hosted on the Jing site.  Easy as pie and incredibly useful.

TripIt.  If you travel at all, this is a must have. When you make an airline or travel reservation, all you do is forward your email confirmation to tripit and they keep track of all the details.  Once you’re at the airport all you need is their iPhone app (or mobile site) to easily grab confirmation codes

Google Apps / Docs / Tasks.   Using corporate email through Google Apps is very easy to do and eliminates lots of effort of setting up Exchange or anything else – it’s both simpler and better.  Through that we get Google Docs which has always been a tremendous way to collaborate on documents with others.  For instance, i have a doc that i use that Nader (in San Francisco) can edit each day in real-time as i work on it.  I also use tasks as a great way to keep track of what i need to do.  I love that i can add tasks from the iPhone (great tasks interface) and then see them back on machine so i can knock ’em out.

Any other items that you use that you’d recommend?  What are your favorite work tools?

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My Love of TripIt Grows

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and for each trip i make sure to throw my airline, car and hotel details into TripIt as it does a great job of building an itinerary.  You can share the trips you set up with other travelers and all collaborate together.  It also gives you an iCal link which you can put inside your Google Calendar so all your trip information is integrated right into you digital life. It’s a great application and i’ve thought so for a while

I’ve always had one complaint for TripIt and that is it’s a horrible application to access on the road.  My iPhone interface takes a long time to load and i’ve had a few times where i stood staring at an Avis employee making small talk while my TripIt page loads on my phone so i could get my confirmation number.  Those days are over as TripIt Mobile just launched and now a custom, fast-loading site has launched.  I couldn’t be more excited

Cities of 2007

I was just reading these two blog (here and here) posts about where people have been this year. I thougtht i’d take a moment at look at my travels in ’07. Here’s what i did (below). Not too shabby. I hope to put some new cities on the list in ’08.

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  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Chicago, IL
  • Key Largo, FL
  • Boston, MA
  • Washington, DC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pocono Lake, PA
  • Westerly, RI
  • New York, NY
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Las Vegas, NV

International Cities:

  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Targu Mures, Romania
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Athens, Greece
  • Tréguier, France
  • Mykonos, Greece

Dopplr is really cool

I started using the site Dopplr a few months ago when it was in Beta and thought it was just okay. I recently went back to check it out and i’m blown away.  It’s a great site.  What is Dopplr?  Dopplr is a website that…

lets you share your travel plans privately with a group of friends and colleagues whom you have chosen. It then tells you when people you know will be in the same cities. It also reminds you of people who live in the places you’re planning to visit.

In short, it keeps track of your trips and your friends and provides some goodness around that information.  What i like about this site is:

  • It knows your flickr account and your travel dates so it can grab the photos from those dates for the trip.  This is MUCH easier than uploading photos for a trip.  Don’t know why Sidestep or others don’t do this
  • For each trip, it places a Google Map and any overlaps with other friends
  • It’s very simple to use.  The site doesn’t try to do to much.  It hides alot of little functionality until you need it.  The design is very slick.

TripIt is Really Useful & Virgin America is the best

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and i’m always looking for the best fare (or Virgin America, my new favorite airline).  Because of this, my flights are all over the place.  My trip to Minnesota for Christmas has me leaving from BWI on Southwest, changing to American in Chicago and then coming home on the cheap airline Sun Country into Dulles.   The itinerary is a mess.  Luckily, i discovered the website TripIt.  All you need to do is forward your confirmation emails to the email address plan@tripit.com and the website will parse out the dates, confirmation numbers, flight numbers, frequent flier codes, etc. for you and keep your itinerary nice and neat.  Now, instead of combing my inbox for that exact flight time, i just go to TripIt and it’s all there.

I recommend it for anyone who’s traveling and needs to keep track of their itin.

As a side note, you should also go out of your way to travel on Virgin America.  It’s an amazing airline.  They have the following things going for them:

  • Big TV screens on the back of the seat (bigger than JetBlue)
  • On demand ordering.  You punch in on the screen what you want and they will bring it to you immediately.  You can eat whenever you want
  • It’s totally empty. I’ve flown on them 3 time and had the entire row to myself each time.  It reminds me of the early days of Independence Air.
  • You can IM any one else on the plane.  Just type in a seat number and you can chat.  I’ve never done this but it’s a good idea (or really sketchy – not sure yet which one)
  • As you travel, instead of a lame map of your distance, it maps it to a Google Map where you can zoom in and see exactly what you’re flying over
  • Very nice seats and cool colors
  • Coming soon: Power Outlets! and Internet!

Next is a Terrible Book

I just have to get this off my chest. I recently finished Michael Crichton’s latest book Next and am pissed that i wasted my time on it.

You would think this would be a book for me – i know i did and i actually bought it for myself for Christmas – as I’m a big fan of Crichton and love thinking about catastrophic genetic sceanrios (previous post i wrote on the subject). But i have to say that this is one of his worst books. The only reason i made it through to the end is because the look at genetic engineering and the moral, ethical and legal mess it creates is pretty interesting. The story and characters (both human and animals) totally suck though.

Crichton’s a smart guy and the premise to his books are really good. I just think he’s become too shallow in his character development. I think his older stuff is better and really love his memoir, Travels. If you have time, you should pick it up – he’s a strange guy and it’s a good read.

 

Milan to Minsk? How about DC to NY

Sure it’s not an erotic journey (a la Seinfeld), but it is still quite an adventure. Asny3.jpg someone who has lived and worked in both DC and NY and gone back and forth regularly, i’m very familiar with the various travelling options. But this weekend was something special. As usual i explored my options:

  • The train is usually the best as it takes you right into the city (no cabs) and isn’t delayed as much as a plane.
  • Driving can be convenient if you need to be flexible, but you can’t do anything on the trip, so it’s just wasted time. If i have some good tunes or a podcast, it’s fine, but i rarely have enough material for the 4 hour trip. Plus there’s alwaysny4.jpg some parking hassle.
  • My latest love is the Chinatown Bus, or what i like to use is the Eastern Shuttle. This amazingly cheap and takes you right from Chinatown to Chinatown (or Midtown). We’re talking $30 round trip and you can just relax, get work done, watch a movie, whatever. For the money, my favorite.

This past weekend i took the bus and had a pretty good trip. However, what i wasn’t counting on was 26 inches of snow!

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I woke up Sunday morning to quite a scene. What i love about NY snowstorms is that the cars disappear and the streets become filled with walkers. I reminds me of movies after the apocalype occurs or zombies take over and everybody’s just on foot fending for themselves. Think of the movies 28 Days Later or The Stand except with a crapload of snow and without the mass destruction. That’s what NY is like today. Pretty great actually – just a serene scene of beautiful NY in the snow.