Very Secure

Panamá Bien Vestido

While packing my bags for Panama I asked dorion what the gents usually wear to their weekly Junto meeting. I was happy to hear I would finally have a use for the blazer that's been collecting dust in my closet. Dorion told me that anyways he always goes out bien vestido because, "I never know who I'll meet and in a lesser part because it trolls casual 'culture.'" Well his lesser reason seemed a great reason to me. So I arrived at the youth hostel, Selina, with a tie on. I bathed in the indignation and other reactions I got from being decently dressed.

Shortly after arriving, dorion popped in the hostel for a drink. We went to Selina's rooftop which has a great view of the bay and the city's skyline. One of the bartenders working there asked us why we were both so well dressed. She then seated us at a table that had a Reserved card on it. The table was positioned to let us enjoy the nice view, and the bartender sat with us for our first drink. Our conversation floated between Spanish and English; we discussed with her shocking topics such as why the US no es el mejor país.

Later, she took a photo of us.


After we got drinks on the roof of Selina's, Dorion and I went for a walk around Casco Viejo. We ran into a local who had grown up in the town and worked in finance in Chicago. He knew about the various buildings and he had a back and fourth with dorion about the history of the town. I (unintentionally) got a hilarious mug of him in the corner of the picture I took of one of JP Morgan's buildings.


Iglesia de La Merced


American Trade Hotel & Hall


Panama Metropolitan Cathedral


Paseo de Las Bóvedas




I slept in the next morning, exhausted from the previous day of travel.1 Around noon I went on a bike ride on La Cinta Costera - a road that juts out into the bay. The view was nice, but it was hot and at times the smell made me ill.


The city has swings setup under the bridge. Because that's exactly where a parent would want their kids to hang out.


Panama's bay changes drastically with the tide.


After the bike ride I returned to the hostel and then took a cab to meet jfw. We went to the roof of his building and had coffee and beer.2 We chatted about a few topics. While we were discussing his work for tmsr-os, jfw made a statement that stuck with me. He said computing may have left the world of math3 and entered the realm of biology.4 After our chat we walked over to the networking meetup. During the event I met most of the Junto crew that I would be seeing the next day.5 After the event jfw, dorion, and I got a bite at a diner.

Conspiring pageboys


The following morning I went to go see the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. It was inspiring to see big business taking advantage of a major engineering accomplishment. What would it take to get to the serenity of mind required to see this project to completion?

I was curious about what appeared to be a leak coming out of the corner where the wall of the canal meets one of the gates. You can see what I'm talking about in the picture below. If you know/have a guess why this exists, please comment.


The ship waits patiently.


Gates are closed.


The water level becomes equal in each compartment, a bell rings, and those ~600 ton gates begin to open.


The ship is pulled by trolleys.


The gates begin to close.


The apparent leak from the right compartment to the left compartment continues, even when the left compartment is draining and the right compartment is filling.


The next ship begins to enter.


After my trip to the Miraflores Locks I took another daytime stroll through Casco Viejo and then went long boarding east along the bay.


A daytime shot of the cathedral.


Look at that crystal clear water.6


For dock operating hours, please refer to the moon.


Am I back in NYC?


On the way back from long boarding I saw two siblings I had met at the hostel in a fish market and joined them for some beer and ceviche. The market has a large food court with a decent number of little restaurant fronts. As you walk in the food court all the waiters are calling you to try to get you to sit down at their table. When our waiter went to the bathroom he told us to only speak with his friend while we waited for his return. His request suggested the tables did not belong to individual restaurants and so ostensibly another waiter could swoop by and steal a client.


After ceviche we went to climb up Cerro Ancón, a hill that overlooks the city. I had to turn around before reaching the top so I could get back in time for Junto.

Obligatory flower picture.


A view from ~ half way up the hill.


The below picture is not supposed to be of the vulture. I saw some rodents7 adorably hoping around. You can see two of them in the center of the pic if you look closely.


Some buildings near the Junto meetup. I did not get a photo of El Tornillo,8 the building where the Junto meeting was held.


I had a great time during Junto. Chad gave a nice introduction to music theory. He kept everyone engaged by making the talk a discussion rather than a monologue lecture. He even had us work out exercises from a music theory text book.

Afterwards most of the group went to dinner together. Six of us divided into two teams of 3 to do shared orders. Each squad ordered the same - a plate of cheese fries to start off and then this large meat/rice dish that was basically delicious taco filling. Dorion made an "executive decision" to douse our squadron's pile of food with hot sauce. No complaints.

It was a pleasure to meet jfw and dorion's group. The dinner was a nice mix of laughs and discussions of life goals. Seeing how jfw and dorion make good use of a time with smart individuals serves as motivation to build a similar group of friends here in CR and anywhere else I may go in the future.

  1. My flight on Monday left at 2:30pm. But I had to wake up at 3:45am to get in a cab to Santa Cruz at 4:00am so I could catch the 5:00am bus to San Jose. For future reference: tickets for the bus to San Jose can be purchased at []
  2. I had a coffee and he had a beer. []
  3. Where a complete understanding is the goal. []
  4. Where complexity is too great, and some parts must accepted as black boxes. []
  5. I also made a connection with someone who has available free lance work. I sent him my resume and am currently in conversation with a recruiter. []
  6. Just kidding, it's a blue wall. []
  7. Perhaps they are bunnies, but I'm not sure. []
  8. The Screw []

3 Responses to “Panamá Bien Vestido”

  1. Diana Coman says:

    You three look great there, conspiring or not!

    (As an aside and pro bien vestido, the thing with quality clothes -and that means materials too and cut and everything else that goes into it - is that they are also actually way more comfortable esp. in humidity+heat and the like.)

    From this at least, Panama City sounds like a sort of Roof City. Can't help thinking also that with such a location as The Screw, I couldn't have resisted naming the Junto the Turn of the Screw instead and that would have driven then some topic choices too, for sure.

  2. Jacob Welsh says:

    I believe the leak in the locks is in fact just that; they're not sealed with rubber or anything. It's the original 100yo concrete walls, possibly the gates too though the drive mechanism was renovated. The operational water flows are much larger and go through channels in the sides of the walls beneath the surface. The trolleys are called "mules" and are on a cog rail to navigate that hill to stay at the necessary height. They've been known to get smooshed when a large vessel drifts off center.

    High tide is usually better for walks near the ocean, smell-wise.

    The large rodents are likely capybara, "ñeque" they call them here.

  3. whaack says:

    @Diana Coman

    Thanks, we were all quite happy with the photos!

    I should know about the clothes thing, my mother is after all a fashion designer
    and makes custom fit women's clothing with imported fabrics.

    Not sure what a Roof City is, but I did have a good time on two roofs.

    @Jacob Welsh

    Thanks for clearing up the leak question / the various insights. Yes, the water flow from the leak would have taken years to fill in the compartment by itself.

    I will remember to go for a walk during high tide next time.

    Looks like the capybara might be what I saw, cool.

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