Friday, August 28, 2009

Back to Seattle

We made it back to Seattle. And we've found a place to live. Now if I can just find a job, we'll be all set.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Impact of Blogging and the Internet on the Media

Although my blog is currently more of a way to keep friends and family updated on what's happening in our lives down here in California, I'm fascinated by the potential reach and impact that individuals or groups can achieve through the internet with a blog. This link is an interesting post to a blog written by a journalist down here in Silicon Valley (Tom Foremski) that I've followed for the last year of so. Although he talks mostly about Silicon Valley companies, he also often has some interesting insights on blogging, the impact of technology and the internet on the media and industry.

Friday, August 21, 2009

San Francisco...One More Time



We've been to San Francisco numerous times over the last two years. I'm not crazy enough to think that we've seen even half of what the city has to offer, but we've made our best attempt at seeing many of the well known landmarks, while at the same time getting off the tourist routes and spending some time strolling random back streets and grabbing a pint at some random bars.

With our time short here in the Bay Area, we wanted to pay one more visit to the city. So, we spent last Sunday and Monday in San Francisco. Sunday night we took advantage of our gift certificate that we received at the Gilroy Garlic Festival and enjoyed a nice dinner at Bobos steak and crab house. Great food, wine and ambiance. We then decided to try something random and ended up at a dive bar that was hosting part of the 2009 San Francisco Jug Band Festival. So, we watched a couple of bluesy/folksy bands play some fun music. And of course each band had a jug player. Interesting.

Monday was dedicated to sight seeing. As mentioned, we'd already seen most of the sights in San Francisco. But, one thing I'd always wanted to do was rent a GoCar. They are these little yellow motor cars (not much bigger than a motorcycle)that we'd often seen whizzing around the major tourist sites. They each include a GPS system that navigates you around the city and tells you the history of some of the more interesting sites. I'll be the first to admit that this was a super touristy cheesey thing to do. But, what the hell.

As I had hoped, it turned out to be a lot of fun, as we spent a couple of hours cruising around the city. In addition, it added a small element of danger to our site seeing, as in order to get the rental back on time we had to ignore the GPS navigation and cut across the city through the crazy traffic of San Francisco. They warn you that if you venture off of the tour route, the car may not make it up some of the hills in San Francisco. And of course, one of the hills we decided to drive up was too steep. So, about half way up the hill, we came to a stand still, even though I had it pegged at full throttle. So, I pulled an "Adam" and asked Tonja to get out and push. With just a 2 second push, the car started moving and I managed to get to the top of the hill, all the while Tonja running behind with a camera and a map trying to keep up. I'm sure this was quite the sight. We then proceeded to drive down the famous curvy street of Lombard and make it back to the car return a little late. A few photos of our GoCar adventure.


Leaving the rental store. This thing makes my Civic feel big.


Tonja and I cruising down Lombard in the GoCar.
Top Speed 35. 40+ on the down hill, which feels like 100.
Tonja had some problems keeping her helmet on her head.

video
A Video from the GoCar.
It's a good thing I played a lot of video games as a kid.


Proof that we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We concluded our day in the city with one last touristy activity. A history cruise of the Bay. We'd never been out on a cruise of the Bay, so we thought it was a nice way to finish up our trip.
Even on an August afternoon, it was foggy, cool and breezy.

That was our SF trip. And now we're packing and getting ready to make the trip back to Seattle.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Stanford Theater and The Marx Brothers


Last night, we headed up to Palo Alto to the historic Stanford Theater. On weeknights, they show classic old movies. The theater originally opened in 1925 and went through a full restoration in 1987. It's wonderful place to watch a movie. There is even an old school organ that rises out of the stage and is played before and after the movie.

The movie we saw was the Marx Brother's "A Night at the Opera" released in 1935. I'd never actually seen a Marx brothers movie. It was great. And considering it was 70+ years old, the humor was a lot more edgy and suggestive, than I would have expected. I'm sure part of the reason we found it so funny is because we were in a theater full of laughing people. But, none the less, the experience definitely peaked my interest in the Marx brothers and their work.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chicago!


Chicago skyline viewed from the south.


Okay, this is a long post. But, Chicago is just so cool. This was my 3rd trip to Chicago in the last year and a half. And Tonja's second. Every time we visit, I like the city more and more. Granted, we've been pretty lucky with the weather. Although, this time I did get caught in a thunder shower without a jacket and at the tail end of this trip we did experience some very hot and muggy weather. I could see how that could be rough to deal with all summer. But, it's still a great city.

The main reason for the trip was Tonja was attending a conference for work. Rather than hang out in San Jose by myself, I decided to cash in some frequent flyer miles and go with her on the trip. So, I spent Thursday and Friday hanging out in the city, while Tonja attended her conference and then we had the weekend to spend together.

Thursday. I opted to take it easy and take in the White Sox game at U.S. Cellular field. I'd of loved to have seen the Cubs at Wrigley, but they were out of town. Oh well, I'd never ventured down to the South side of Chicago, so it was an adventure. I caught the red line train down to the stadium and arrived early for the 1:00 PM game.

Not the most exciting game I've ever been to. As the White Sox lost to the LA Angels 9 to 5. But, it was a great day for baseball. I think there was literally one beer or hot dog vendor for every 10 fans. No waiting.

Friday. I headed to the popular Chicago Field Museum. Which is a huge Natural History Museum. I spent about 5 hours here walking around in awe.


Field Museum Entrance. No, it had not been seized by Somali pirates. There was just a pirate exhibit going on.


Don't worry those elephants are stuffed. I'll refrain from any Republican jokes.


This thing was huge. The photo doesn't really do it justice.


An example of a dinosaur walking his pet dinosaur. I'm kidding. I think.


Don't worry if you're not into fossilized remains, they have plenty of stuffed animals, too.
In fact, pretty much any animal or bird you can imagine they have a stuffed version of.
Many of them are 75 to 100 years old.


Saturday. Tonja and I gave up on trying to blend in with the Chicago locals and went into full tourist mode. A decision we would regret. After all, it was a Saturday in August. It was hot and muggy, so rather than walking every place, we took two bus tours of the city.

And then waited in line for approximately 3 days to get to the observation level on the top of the Sears Tower (I know they just changed the towers name, but I refuse to call it Big Willy or what ever it's called now). The term "tourist trap" has new meaning for me now. Once you got into line, you couldn't leave. And once you were in line, you had no idea how long the wait was. It was an awesome view...but in hindsight I think we might of opted for another way of spending a Saturday afternoon in Chicago.

Peering down through "The Ledge" , which is basically a glass cubicle hanging off the edge of the 103 floor of the Sears Tower. You can look straight down through the floor to the street below. Cool, but 2 hours of waiting cool? I'm not sure.


Tonja and I on "The Ledge" and yes we look a little tired after standing in line for 2 hours to get up the tower.


A view of downtown Chicago from the Sears Tower. If you're ever in Chicago and have the urge to go to the top of a skyscraper, I'd recommend The John Hancock Tower over the Sears Tower. Why? There is a bar at the John Hancock Tower. You'll need a drink after waiting in line with the tourist masses. Did I mention it took us a while? Okay, enough complaining from me. It was still fun.


In addition to site seeing, we also took in an Improv Comedy Show at Second City. And enjoyed a good meal at the well known Harry Caray Steak and Chop House.

It was a good trip. It's such an energetic city with lots to see and do. And dare I say, the people are pretty friendly. Good Times.

A few more random photos:

Hotel Room View: Night

Hotel Room View: Day

We went to this cool bar and had drinks outside in an ally. That sounds bad.

Maybe it was late, but I thought this looked cool.

Tonja looking good. This bar had cool brick walls to pose in front of.

And finally, the obligatory shot of me drinking a beer. Apparently, shocked by the camera flash.


Ooops

Marty McFly: "What, what, is it hot?"
Doc Brown: "No, it's cold, damn cold!"


Apparently, if you put a bottle of beer in the back of my beer fridge and it touches the back of the fridge it will freeze. As the above photo demonstrates. Thankfully, this was just a couple of bottles of my first batch of home brew that I'd made. That batch of homebrew didn't turn out too well, as some how I put too much sugar in the beer when I was priming for bottling. It turned out like more of a cider. I've been meaning to throw it out, but felt bad about it. So, basically in that photo you have cidery beer slushy. Errr...I didn't give it a try.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Reflection

I’ve always been a reflective person. Particularly, when I know big changes are just around the corner. Ever since I was kid, I’ve tried to take mental pictures of particular moments or locations in my life that I know will never be repeated in the same way.

For example, I remember sitting at a lunch room table on the last day of 8th grade in Bellevue, Nebraska. I was surrounded by friends that I’d known since first grade. But, I knew that was going to be my last day going to school with any of those people as I knew later that summer we were moving to Spokane. I remember just sitting there trying to absorb as much as that moment as humanly possible. Trying to capture that moment in my mind. The names, the faces and the sites of that lunch room. The layers of paint on the radiators against the wall. The smell of hot dogs, french fries and table disinfectant. The way the light from the fluorescent light reflected off the tile floor. This was a place and a group of people that I’d been around for years, but I knew once I walked out of the lunch room on that last day of school, that particular phase of my life with those people would be over. And it was.

So, as of today, we have about three weeks before we leave San Jose and move back to Seattle. And as it draws closer, I find myself clicking into full reflection mode. Granted we’ve only been in San Jose for two years and I personally haven’t made the bonds with people the same way you do when you are younger, but there is a lot I’m going to miss about this place. So much, that I can’t possible capture it in a mental picture. So, in no particular order, I present the top ten things, I’m going to miss about Northern California.

The Smells: With a 10 month growing season, it seems as if something is always in bloom around here. From the roses, to the eucalyptus trees, to the wild grasses, to the pine trees, to all the other plants and flowers that I’ve only ever seen down here, the smells are wonderful, pretty much anytime you’re outside you’re smelling some type of plant or flower that is unique to this area.

Burritos: In the last two years, I’ve probably eaten more burritos than is healthy for any one human being. Maybe it’s the fresh guacamole, but, they are really an art form down here. Every taqueria or little Mexican restaurant has there own version, but regardless, they’re always great tasting, huge and inexpensive. My favorite: Mondo Burrito in Santa Clara.

The Beach: Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Mendecino. We’ve truly been spoiled living within an hour or so of some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. And although I love spending a day at the beach in the Summer sipping a beer, I think my favorite time of year at the beach is February. The crowds are gone, but the weather can still be in the 70s.

The Sun. What can I say? I’ve lived in Seattle and England for much of my life. For once, it’s great to live in a place where a sunny day is the norm. You can plan most outdoor activities without worrying about bringing a rain jacket or umbrella. I’m well aware the adjustment back to the Northwest will be tough, especially by about February.

Silicon Valley: I can say I worked in Silicon Valley and have a greater understanding of business and innovation. Silicon Valley is truly a unique business environment with some truly inspiring and brilliant people and companies. It was great to part of it, even for a short time. I learned a lot about myself. Good and bad.

At the same time, I truly have an even deeper understanding of the movie Office Space. Still not a fan of miles and miles of technology industrial parks built in the 70’s and 80’s.

The Fog: I’ve never seen fog like you get around the northern Bay Area. It is truly a breath taking site to drive up the East Bay on a bright and sunny day and look across to San Francisco and see the fog enveloping the city and the Golden Gate bridge.

The City: San Francisco. A city full of paradoxes. Good and bad. Ying and yang. None the less, I’ve truly enjoyed each visit and only being an hour away from the hustle and bustle of a major city. The history, the culture,the food, the diversity and the natural beauty surrounding it is impressive. Not to mention the many wonderful memories we’ve had with visiting friends and family from the last two years. It’s a city I’ll look forward to visiting in the future.

The Outdoors: Yosemite National Park, Pinnacles National Monument, Lake Tahoe, Napa/Sonoma. To name just a few. To have all these amazing and varied spectacular outdoor locations within a days drive is crazy. Over the two years, we’ve been hiking, camping, running and bike riding in some beautiful places.

The San Jose Hills in the Spring: Arrive in San Jose nine months out of the year and you are struck by the brown hills that surround this area. The locals like to call the color “golden”. I still laugh at that. With the exception of the time around sunset, the hills still look brown to me most of the year. But at some point in February through about April, the hills turn a beautiful green. A bright radiant green that really changes the feel of the entire area. It makes it very cheerful and I often found myself looking for an excuse to drive up into the hills. It makes you feel like you’re in Ireland or something.

Coffee Spots: I developed my love for coffee and coffee houses in Seattle during college. Although, I found over the last few years that any good coffee shop in Seattle gets extremely crowded. San Jose doesn’t have the crowded problem. I figured I’d be lucky to find one or two coffee shops in this area. Fortunately, I actually found three that serve great coffee and always have an open table (Mission City Coffee, La Crema, Bellano Coffee). Since I’ve been out of work, it’s been a great and cheap way to get out of the house, but still be on the computer looking for jobs and working on my resume or what not. I’ll miss these places.

I’m sure, there are many other things that I don't even realize, yet. And don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to move back to Seattle, but I think it’s important to look at where you are, before you’re not there anymore.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The 31st Annual Garlic Festival




I like garlic, but I'm not what you would call a garlic lover. But, after hearing about the world famous Gilroy, California Garlic Festival for the last two years while living down here, we had to check it out for ourselves a week or so ago. Basically, it's just a big food festival out in the middle of some fields. Lots of food, live music, cooking demonstrations and of course beer and wine.

Pretty much every food item had garlic of some shape or form. In about a 4 and half hour span Tonja and I shared garlic bread, a garlic peppersteak sandwich, garlic pesto alfredo pasta, garlic calamari and finished the day off with some garlic fries. And of course washed it down with a beer and a glass of sangria. No garlic in the beer or sangria. I was some what surprised that there was no garlic beer. Seems like a missed opportunity. Could be a fun homebrew challenge.

In addition to eating a lot, we also checked out a cooking demonstration by a chef who owns a couple of swank restaurants in San Francisco. Throughout his cooking demonstration he randomly awarded people in the crowd with gifts such as cook books, t-shirts, aprons and gift certificates. And in what is perhaps one of the strangest items I've every seen thrown out at any event of any kind...he threw out handfuls of garlic flavored condoms.....(awkward silence).......yep, garlic flavored condoms. There you have it. The 31st Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival!!! Some photos...

Like most good festivals of any kind, they make you drive out to the middle of no where. And since this is the garlic growing capital of the US, you can smell the garlic from miles away.

Andrea Froncillo, originally from Naples, Italy has a passion for food and apparently garlic flavored latex. But, he did give us a gift certificate to one of his restaurants up in San Francisco.

It's not everyday you see a 20 foot high flaming clove of garlic. And yes, I need a hair cut.

Proof that people will wait in line for anything free. Here we are waiting in line for a free sample of garlic ice cream. It's basically vanilla ice cream blended with garlic puree. It actually wasn't bad. After a few bites, the taste of garlic kind of goes away and you can only really taste the vanilla ice cream

Garlic Chicken Stir Fry. Looks innocent enough.

Okay, maybe not so innocent. There is actually an entire row of about 10 of these flaming woks. Pretty cool to watch...from a distance.

And finally some ice cold sangria to wash it all down. We smelled of garlic for about three days after this.

Busy Week


The last week is a blur. In anticipation for our move back to Seattle at the end of August, I drove my car to Seattle last Tuesday and flew back on Sunday. I needed to go to Seattle anyway to try and track down an apartment or house for us to move into at the end of August. So, I figured I'd take my car to Seattle and park it, so we only had one car and a moving truck to take up to Seattle when we leave.

I drove from San Jose to Seattle in about 13 hours on Tuesday. I left at about 5:45 AM and arrived in Ballard just after 7:00 PM. Considering I was driving a 15 year old car and the temperature was in the 90's and 100's for much of the trip, I feel lucky to have made it without any type of mechanical problem. Although, my A/C was laboring to keep the car cool at the end. I've probably just jinxed myself, but I really must admit my little Honda has been good to me.

I wasn't quite as lucky on finding a place to rent. Although, it's a renters market right now, I couldn't quite find what we were looking for. Most of the places I looked at were already vacant and the landlords were looking to rent them sooner than the last week of August. So, in hindsight I probably should have done the trip a week or so later, but I didn't really want to make that drive twice in under a month. Oh well, I have a much better feel for the current Seattle rental market and I'm pretty confident we can get something secured before we get back to Seattle or very soon after we arrive.

It was good to spend a few days in Seattle despite the record setting heat.

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