Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Conspicuous Consumption

Josh asked me along to Math and Physics Day at Great America this past Friday. This gave me the chance to finally buy one of those ridiculous pictures that they take at the end of the loop on a rollercoaster. The photo was ridiculously overpriced for its terrible quality but the fact is they got a monopoly on cameras fixed at a position to catch my response to going through the upside down loop. There are many things money can't buy, but you don't count silly souvenirs like this among them. If you peruse the picture closely you might notice that I'm the only one in the front row who is holding their arms out. What's this world coming to?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We Came. We Blogged. We Conquered.

The spoils of victory for our dominance in the Chieftan's Trivia Night. Ironically, we won enough to cover the drinks we had during the competition. The real credit for the victory goes to Gen. Most of the question, we all knew the answers to, but whenever most of us were stumped, Gen came through. Together we made a great team, each filling in the gaps of the others knowledge.

We're Blogging this Right Now

...was our team name for the Trivia Competition. True to our namesake, we shared news of the event with an uninterested internet public through minute by minute web updates. I feel like a Gargoyle out of Snowcrash.

Lake Tahoe at Sunset

I hate the idea of a private beach. It's fine if you own the house right next to the beach and the beach is your private yard, but when the only stretch of beach near south shore is gated off from use by some condo coop, it can really ruin your day. I shouldn't have to walk a half an hour to get a view of the sunset that doesn't involve iron bars. Especially when none of the people who own the private beach are out using it. Luckily, the luxury homes that were under construction next to the private beach did not yet have their fences up, so I got an unobstructed view of a great sunset.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Spring Breaking in Lake Tahoe

I had to go to Tahoe this week to pick up my skis, which had been left there since I broke my ankle. As the previous post explained, my trip got unexpectedly extended when the GPS sent me into unincorporated El Dorado County on a wild goose chase. The car suggested a forest service road that would take me over to the 88. About 30 minutes down this road, the blue line that represented my path disappeared and the GPS reminded me to "Follow all local traffic laws". I found a path on the map that would get me to the 88, but about 20 minutes down that path, I came across the washed out bridge and had to turn back. This kept me from getting to kirkwood before they closed so I had to spend the night in Tahoe. I grabbed a sandwich for dinner and snuck on to a private beached on by some hotels near the shore. The view of the sunset there was great and I had a lot of fun trying out all the manual settings on my camera. The next day I got my skis and tried to hike Grass Pond, but the road there was...wait for it...washed out. Damn! I drove back towards San Francisco and came across a nice hill so I walked up it as far as I could before the growth got to thick to continue. Though there were many unexpected obstacles to my trip, I was happy with the outcome.

Spring Breaking in Tahoe 2006:05:10andrew_casteel's Spring Breaking in Tahoe 2006:05:10 photoset

Tomales Point Hike

Pat Higgins was up from Colorado to interview with Google so he and Babcock and I went hiking in Point Tomales. It's only about an hour and a half north of the city. We stopped at the nearby lighthouse first. There were tons of ravens and even a few turkey vultures hanging on the updrafts from the cliffs. All along the hike there were elk herds. The end of the hike wound around the cliff edge down to where the end of the trail had collapsed on to the rock below.

Point Tomales Hike at Point Reyes 2006:05:06andrew_casteel's Point Tomales Hike at Point Reyes 2006:05:06 photoset

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

GPS is not omniscient

Though I love my prius, sometimes one just wishes one were driving the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard so that with a squeal of the tires and a loud "Yeeeeehaaaaw" one could cross this pathetic divet in the road in a slow motion, parabolic arc.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

San Francisco Botanical Gardens

Golden Gate Park 2006:04:26andrew_casteel's Golden Gate Park 2006:04:26 photoset

Ocean Beach

I'd never thought about how to get from my house to Ocean Beach before. It turns out that there is a broad variety of ways to get from here to there, with a variety of climbing involved. I'm not in great cardiovascular shape, so I was definitely up for a "less climbing" route. After consulting
the bike-friendly map, which tells me that I don't want to bike over Twin Peaks. Which I guess I knew. The bike map suggested a route through Clarendon Heights which wasn't too steep. I stopped at a few points on Corbett to catch my breath, but it was doable. After coasting down Ashbury I was ready for some ice cream at the Ben and Jerry's. The ride through Haight Ashbury and Golden Gate Park is pretty flat, and after stopping at the ocean for a while to watch the windsurfing, I continued down the Great Highway. The climb back up Taraval to Portola is very gradual. The whole loop was about three hours, counting ice cream and beach stops.

The one very nice thing about the map is the color coding of elevation. As in, the street where I live is the brightest orange. THen again, the map thinks I live in Diamond Heights, so I'm not sure I trust its accuracy.

Goose Stepping Cows?

I think I just don't get British political humor.

I was in London for a week to do some recruiting. In between interviewing a dozen nearly identical-looking candidates, I got to go to some museums and theater. (Someday, European universities will start churning out female graduates with computer science degrees. Until then, I'm doomed to interview "Matt", "Matthew", and "Matteo" all on the same day. No offense.) I saw the musical Billy Elliot, which was pretty cool. But the bit about cows goose-stepping while saluting a giant balloon with the face of Margaret Thatcher really went over my head. The wine at the theater was pretty bad, though, and I needed rather a lot of beer afterwards to forget it. Still, the little boy playing Billy could actually sing and dance, so it was a good show.

A trip to London wouldn't be complete without a trip to Gutshot. Sadly, the only game going when I showed up was the 50 pound game, which is tougher than the lower-stakes games usually happening. I was doing pretty well until I ended up all in with aces against a set of eights... very disappointing. On the plus side, that evening I found a restaurant with actual Good Food. Prior to this point I had been substisting on chocolate croissants, office food, and Guinness (with the occasional foray into those little steak pies), but it was fantastic to eat some real food. The restaurant is Orso, near Covent Garden. I had the risotto and the lamb, which absolutely fell off the bone and was delicious. As seems to be traditional in London, they serve you the normal amount of wine in a tiny glass and caraffe, to convince you that there is in fact several glasses of wine.

I've also discovered that Gatwick Airport is the way to go, to get into London. The last time I flew into Heathrow, the customs line was miles long and there were lots of flight delays. At Gatwick, I arrived two hours early and got through checkin/customs in about fifteen minutes. Not that there's anything to do once you get through customs... spent my last few pounds on some paperbacks and browsed the whiskey selection at the duty free store. The fifteen minutes even includes the security folks thinking I was some sort of British thug (what with my Blogger hoodie) and actually patting me down and poking through my wallet. Because my wallet is suspicious. It occurs to me that I haven't cleaned out my wallet in a while. I'm still a card-carrying Democrat (for lack of better options), and member of the V.Sattui wine club, but at some point the pass for the NY subway is going to expire. And I really don't know what I'm going to do with three bart tickets, each worth less than the minimum cost of a ride. I don't know what the airport security folks made of the mass transit tickets for subways in four cities... maybe I'm part of a worldwide plot to... uh.. do something.

Anyway, London is fun, but I like being somewhere where sushi doesn't come on a conveyor belt.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Butterfly Exhibit

Butterfly Exhibitandrew_casteel's Butterfly Exhibit photoset

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Napa with Lexi

2006:04:29 Napa Tripandrew_casteel's 2006:04:29 Napa Trip photoset

Conservatory of Flowers

They have a no tripod policy so most of the macro shots took several tries and various tricky flash angles. It's a beautiful place to visit and tickets are only five dollars. I was chased from room to room by the mist sprayers which would periodically turn on to keep the tropical humidity. Great for flowers, but not for my camera.

Conservatory of Flowers 2006:04:26andrew_casteel's Conservatory of Flowers 2006:04:26 photoset

Hawk Hill Photos

The hike turned out to be very short. I was promised 2 miles but it was no more than a 5 minute stroll to the top. There was however an incomplete bunker started for World War II but never finished because it became clear that the bay was safe from invasion by the time they were ready to start arming it. Now all that is there are giant green cement ponds where 25 mile range naval guns would have been installed.

Hawk Hill Hike 2006:04:26andrew_casteel's Hawk Hill Hike 2006:04:26 photoset

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

SF Protest for A Day Without an Immigrant

It was a slow day at school. There were only 10 students in each of my first 2 classes. Though I made it out to the San Francisco Protest a little after most of the crowd had left, the people that were left were still very energized. There were several great drum circles, tons of families with flags and a lot of positive energy in the air.

2006:05:01 Day Without An Immigrant Protestandrew_casteel's 2006:05:01 Day Without An Immigrant Protest photoset