Monday, April 30, 2012

Doodle Romp in San Jose

Yesterday we went to a Doodle Romp in San Jose, sponsored by iDog.  It was located in Hellyer Park in San Jose and the attendance was pretty good.  Kiley from Harmony Labradoodles and Kristin from Golden Gate Labradoodles were there with several dogs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Paris Baguette in Palo Alto

paris baguette date night
We took a small trip to Palo Alto this weekend and walked up and down University Avenue.  We've been to PA a number of times but we haven't walked this street in a long time.  Lots of construction seems to be going on for new stores moving in.  The old Borders location, the Varsity theater, is still unoccupied, but I see plans are in the works to turn it into a mix of offices and retail space.

I couldn't help but notice Paris Baguette on the opposite side of the street as we made our way up the street.  Any time I see a bakery offering baguettes in a semi-French style, I am intrigued.  They had all the sweets you see in the picture above, tarts, small cakes, and other confections.  But they also had salads, croissants (almond, chocolate, etc), cream cheese and fruit pastries, etc.  Fresh espresso drinks, too.  The way they had customers select their items--you get a tray and tongs and pick what you want--reminded us of how certain Asian bakeries (such as Kee Wah) are run.  Apparently PB is owned and operated by a company in Korea and they plan to expand in 7 more locations this year.  We look forward to eating there again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gothic Rocketship on San Francisco Waterfront

Here is a grainy pic of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship that I took today on a lunch time walk on the San Francisco waterfront.  I've always seen this thing from a distance, and being a Science Fiction fan, naturally I had to check it out.  It is really cool, there are little square windows, portholes, rivets, and a crank wheel outside to open up the hatch.

There is even a display outside, with a schedule for the rocketship (going to Mars daily) on the Milky Way Local express line.

Here is the poster on the display, which is also retro-cool.  Check out the website about this work of art for more fun artwork and facts.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oahu: LOST Tour leads us into the Kualoa Ranch

We recently returned from a vacation in Hawaii (Oahu), where the big highlight of my trip was a Lost Hummer tour of the Kualoa Ranch on the northeast side of the island.  Kos Tours has exclusive access to the ranch, which has been privately owned since 1850.  The ranch has pristine green beauty and breathtaking views almost everywhere you look.  No wonder Lost uses many locations on this property!  We took the 2 hour Hummer tour, which was very well organized.  The guide was very well versed in Lost lore, and came prepared with Lost screen caps or movie clips to show us what happened at each location. 

One of the best locations was the one used for Hurley's Golf Tournament in season one.  We even got to take a picture with Hurley, as you can see here.  Of course, it isn't Jorge Garcia, it's a Todd McFarlane action figure!

Unfortunately, Lost wasn't filming the final season when we were there.  The guide told us of past sightings, like watching Jughead being assembled, and seeing young Ben walking around in a wounded condition.  I asked him about the Lost cast members.  As I suspected, actors like Terry O'Quinn or Michael Emerson are friendly, but Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly are very cold and distant.  I could tell this from various interviews the cast has given.  The guide said that Evangeline Lilly doesn't really care for the show and tried to leave Lost a few years ago.

I highly recommend the tour.  The 2-hour package was around $80 per person, and my wife, who is not a Lost fan at all, still had fun taking pictures at the gorgeous locales.  We did not get to see the famous Lost beach camp--that location is only available in the ten hour tour.  Check out the Kos Hummer Tours Hawaii website for more information.  Many thanks to Ryan from Lost the Transmission for recommending this company.  Nuff said.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Paperback Dreams and the loss of Cody's Books

Paperback Dreams is a documentary about two Bay Area bookstores, Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and Cody's Books in Berkeley.  It was shown on KQED this week, if you've missed it, keep an eye out for repeat viewings.  It will bring back fond memories of these two stores.

I remember growing up in Auburn, CA, where we had a very small bookstore in town.  My friend Mike Pratt and I would learn of books by various authors, but have no way to purchase them.  The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac?  Not in our town, and not in the local library. The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick?  Forget it.  But when our high school teacher took us on a field trip to Berkeley, we visited stores like Cody's, and a whole new world opened up to us.  We spent most of our available cash on paperbacks and went back to the boondocks to read them.  I think without these stores, we would not have survived high school.

Young people today have no idea what it's like not to have access to information.  I know I sound really old when I say that.  When I grew up, we had no computers, no internet, six TV channels, and no big-box stores.  Looking for books was something of a treasure hunt, akin to finding a special object in a video game.  Comic books were even worse, you had to hunt them down at drugstores, grocery stores, and newsstands.

I used to dream of having everything in one convenient location.  Little did I know that such consolidation would have a negative impact on these industries.  Comic-book stores killed the broader-based newsstand market.  The big chain stores damaged small independent bookstores.  Then Amazon came along and the sheer convenience of them took away more customers.  Even libraries contribute to demise of book sellers.  Our library allows us to reserve books online and sends us notifications on when we can pick them up.  Now I think another nail in the coffin will be digitized books, with people reading content on their iPhones and Kindles. 

Even though I mourn the loss of these stores, I can't bring myself to avoid this new technology.  We're getting ready to move, and having tons of books is a huge hassle.  With a bad back, every time I'm picking up a box of books, it's like playing Russian Roulette.  I used to aspire to having a collection of books and memorabilia like Forest J Ackerman.  But now I have to downsize, having too much stuff is just a liability. 

I'll have fond memories of going to Cody's and hearing Neal Stephenson talk about the Baroque Cycle.  But the next time I open up a real book, I'm going to feel like James T. Kirk opening up an antique.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Goats on the Horizon of Castro Valley

Goats overlooking big houses
One day we woke up and there were goats outside our home!  We live in Castro Valley, in a community called Palomares Hills.  The latest and greatest series of townhouses is on the very top, aptly named the Horizon series.  Our Horizon board was faced with the problem of clearing away the dead grass on the hills surrounding our community.  They could have paid an army of guys with weed whackers for a few days, but instead they made a great decision to go green, and hire an army of goats instead!
Goats going about their work
Living Systems Innovative Land Management is the company that leases the goats for clearing away grass.  About 120-140 goats are "working" for us right now.  They are surrounded by an electric fence to keep them contained in one grazing area at a time.  For the goats, it truly isn't work.  It's like being at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets and chowing down all day until you faint from exhaustion.  I have the opinion the goats are doing a better job than humans; they can get to out of the way places, between trees and bushes.  Some of these areas that need to be cleared are on a steep slope.
Goats drinking water
They also get all the water they can drink, in this tub that you see here. The goats can clear an area of dead grass pretty quickly.  They have been accompanied by a herder who supervises them and moves them from one place to another.  The goats have made several stops through our back hills, lasting 1-3 days.  The herder has an amazing border collie dog (Jake) that can round up the goats to get them moving in unison.  Jake has more skill and discipline than any other dog I've ever seen; he was trained in Scotland especially for this type of work. I am quite sure that Jake is much more disciplined and responsible than I am!
Goats on hill
The goats have been with us for about two weeks now and we love them.  Teatea said to me today that she wished they would stay forever.  It's been fun to see families and kids go out and learn about their function in nature.  You can also see the bucks (male goats) butting heads with their horns.
Goats enjoying bay view
Somehow I suspect the awesome Horizon views of the bay area are lost on these goats.
Goats on hill behind Greenville
One more picture, from our bedroom window.  The goats have moved away and we are missing them already.
Link: Living Systems Innovative Land Management

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Farewell, Dave Ross

One of the greatest characters that I've ever worked with, Dave Ross, died in November. His death came as a great shock to all of us, because he seemed so full of life whenever we were around him. He wrote about his cancer experiences on Oh Crap, I Have Cancer. He had esophogeal cancer and first noticed the symptoms when he had trouble swallowing his food. I recommend reading this blog from the first entry (on the second page) in chronological order, if you or anyone close have suffered from esophogeal problems such as a high degree of stomach acid.

On Sunday, December 10th, there was a memorial service for Dave at the Alumni House at UC Berkeley. Dave was one of the greatest Cal fanatics, certainly the greatest sports fan that I've ever met. The service was sad, funny, touching, and true to Dave’s unique spirit. Over 100 people attended, mostly UC Berkeley alumni or fellow Cal fans, but also a lot of people from Ingres. They showed a short video of Dave’s life, including baby videos—and he had that same twinkle in his eye at every age. The video had two songs, Time of Your Life, and the Austin Powers theme song. After the video, Dave’s Mom and brother Steve stood up and said a few words, then turned over the podium to his friends. Most of them were very funny stories about his sports obsession. Dave contacted a lawyer buddy to draw up a will, providing for his nieces with the sale of his various assets. The lawyer said there’s a provision in the will, called “the Stanford clause”, to make sure his nieces don’t go to that school and become uptight, pretentious people! I don't think I will ever look at the color red without recalling Dave's mantra, Inferior Stanford Red.

Dave would have approved of the service. Cal Blue and Gold colors were everywhere: plates, cups, napkins, even blue and gold M&Ms. Halfway through the stories, the Cal Berkeley football band came in and played a couple of Dave’s favorite Cal songs. The stories continued, making us laugh and cry simultaneously.

One of the things that really pleased me was the Austin Powers theme song during the video montage. Very soon after I met Dave, I learned of his adoration for this film. I was a big fan, too. We started putting all kinds of references in our Product Design Specifications and marketing materials. You might see the Alan Parsons Project or Frau Farbissina listed in a sample database, or Dr. Evil as a malicious user trying to alter a database without permissions. Whenever we were in a meeting and there was a new product feature idea floating around that seemed like a good one, Dave would raise his pinky and say in his Dr. Evil voice: "One...million...dollars!" We held a WebEx internet conference with several major Wall Street firms in attendance, where Dave had a Dr. Evil slide (about database security), and did the voice too, which went over like a lead balloon. But he and I thought it was funny.

Dave told me a story about visiting LA when they were making Goldmember and actually visiting the Austin Powers set with a young man (his nephew or something?). The day they visited, it was a Dr. Evil scene. He said that Mike Myers stayed in character the entire time, even when the crew was changing the cameras and lights. Dave and the boy did their Dr. Evil pinky impression, and Mike Myers started doing the same thing back to them.

One time during our Internet conferences with our customers, I played a joke on Dave. I created a fake name on the list of people participating in the conference. I did this so that customers wouldn't be able to contact me directly--after all, that was Dave's job, I was an anti-social programmer. The name I used was John D. Rockefeller. I thought Dave would surely recognize this as a fake, but at the very end of the session, he said, "There's one customer I don't recall inviting here. John D. Rockefeller, what company do you represent?" I said nothing, trying to stifle my laughter. "Oh well," Dave said, "it must be one of competitors spying on us." Dave laughed hysterically when I told him the truth a few minutes later.

Dave was a riot to work with. No meeting with him would ever be dull. Eventually he would make some comment that would get us all laughing. After he left, work just wasn't the same anymore. I was just thinking that I needed to get back in contact with Dave, to get a boost of that incredible optimistic energy, when I read the terrible news.

Go Dave, wherever you are now. Go Bears!