Sunday, September 02, 2007

This is Ella, who has recently discovered that petting is fun.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The sixth anniversary is... penguins?

So I'm at a 2/4 limit table at the Luxor, still a little steamed (and sleepy) from an early-morning tournament loss (who plays poker at 9 a.m.? Apparently I'm not the only one - hence the sleepy), when a giant penguin sneaks up behind me and goes "bap bap bap" (here you should imagine the penguin beak pecking at my shoulder). This is not a hallucination - Andrew has gotten me a life-size stuffed toy emperor penguin. Context: "life size" == "larger than the carry-on sizing bin for an airline" or "tall enough to see over a poker table". The penguin brought me good luck, though, and overall the poker play was profitable for both of us this time in Vegas. (We solved the "bigger than a carry-on" problem by sitting it on my lap in the plane, where it made an excellent pillow; it did take some explaining to get it through the security checkpoint.)

So now I have to think of something equally cool to get Andrew as an anniversary present. Suggestions from the peanut gallery are welcome, but it sounds like he wants another camera.

This was a fun trip to Vegas. We played poker in the Luxor, the Excalibur, and the Bellagio. We intended to play at the Rio and Mandalay, but they were only running no-limit at the time, so no go. Context switching from limit to no-limit is something I don't do quickly. All poker rooms we played in were nonsmoking (a welcome change from last time I was in town for gambling purposes) and had several tables running at once. All were near the casinos' sports books, so I watched an unusual amount of ESPN too. The Bellagio's poker room is very nice, but I'm not a big fan of the clientele it attracts - imagine the stereotypical young aggressive hoodie-wearing player who won't shut up about how stupid he thinks you are. Even if you're taking his money. That's just not fun. All the other card rooms seemed to have a nice mix of tourists, locals, and other assorted people who do not Take Seriously a game of low-limit poker.

We ate at Michael Mina's, which was seriously awesome. I didn't know beforehand that he was also the chef at Aqua, but the similarities are apparent. The tasting menu had this lobster pot pie thing, and tuna tartare, and the yummiest cod ever, and kobe-style beef with foie gras and lots of different sauces, and then loads of chocolate-themed desserts.. each dish seemed small, but I didn't need to eat for the whole next day because it was just that filling. I have also been instructed to try to replicate the chocolate chip cookies, which were quite something.

We saw Penn&Teller and the Beatles-themed Cirque du Soleil, which were both pretty cool. It's sort of hard to describe either one, though.

Monday, August 06, 2007

the kind of summer that involves gorillas hawaii two weddings idaho harry potter vegas

Wow, it's been a busy few months. I was gonna post, and then I was busy, and then I forgot, and then my friends started launching all of these new features, so I figured I have to post. So. Features! Woot! Add a poll to your blog.

In June I ran 7K in a gorilla suit for charity. OK, not exactly running the whole way, on account of the gorilla suit being freaking hot, but at least running some. There were a few hundred of us in Golden Gate Park, which was pretty cool. This convinced me that I was quite out of shape, so I've been running more since. I figured I was getting somewhere, and then I read in the paper about Haile Gebrselassie, who ran the New York half marathon in less than an hour (which is, like, 13 miles an hour, for a whole hour?) and I'm, like, happy when I sprint at 7 mph... I take solace in the idea that Mr. Gebrselassie probably can't code his way out of a paper bag.

Also in June we went to Bryan and Anishya's wedding in Hawaii. I'd never been to Hawaii, so it was really fun to go and do all the touristy things, including hanging out on Mount Haleakala. Hmm.. I see that this deck has no photos of the 35-pound tuna that Andrew caught. Well, there was a giant tuna, which he assures me put up a fight to confound three grown men. (Except, of course, for him.) We ate sashimi for quite some time afterwards.

After last year's "no boats" resolution, we decided to spend the fourth of July at a higher vantage point, so we rode up Twin Peaks to watch the fireworks. (This is the part where I am obligated to tell you that Andrew's bike weighs three times as much as mine, and thus it was a manly amount of work for him.) It was a little fogged in but the fireworks in Marin County went over the fog line so it was a pretty cool show.

Autumn and Steven also got married in July, in a very nice ceremony with tons of people we sort of knew from school. (I counted five generations of CS1 head TAs in attendance, including me.) I knew it was the right group when I walked up and heard a vibrant discussion of whether the chairs arranged on the deck had the right symmetry, with several measuring tapes proved out to pull it.

This year also marked my 10-year high school reunion, so we went back to Idaho for the celebration. It was pretty fun, all things considered. We went hiking in the Tetons with my parents and Amy, which was cool (photos to come). My mom held up pretty well despite the challenging route up the gravelly bits of the mountain. Times have sure changed in the years I've been gone: I discovered that Idaho Falls now has two of my three essential pillars of civilization: high speed internet and sushi(The third pillar is same-day delivery of the New York Times.) The sushi was quite enjoyable and well-presented. And before you think, "how am I going to get my non-sushi-eating relatives to go to the sushi restaurant?", know that this restaurant is also a bar and grill, with actual fully-cooked fishies. I got to see lots of old friends, and say "look! I have a cool job, live in a fun city and have no children!". Andrew politely made [the same tidbit of] conversation throughout the evening and was quite a gentleman. Oh, plus, the Simpsons movie was pretty awesome. Not as awesome as the final Harry Potter book, which I read while he went out hiking with the guys the weekend before we went to Idaho (one of whom (no names) brought his copy of the Harry Potter book with them hiking (err.. I should say my copy - due to impatience with the US Postal Service, I stuck around to wait for his late copy so he could go to the bookstore before the hike to purchase the copy as I had planned to do.)).

This we're going to Vegas to celebrate our six-year anniversary. Six years of anything is a long time, compared to my life span. I think that's the longest I've done anything. (The job is coming up on six years in a month or so.) Some of my high school friends have been married for more than 10 years now, so I guess it's not that long. Well, you find a good thing and stick to it.

In theory there should be lots of summer photos up on the flickr page, but Andrew has taken a teaching job at a charter school (starting... now... ok, 7 a.m. tomorrow) so there is less time to postprocess and post the photos. But they will be up eventually.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

koninginnedag, hippie music festivals, and gorillas

The last month or so has been pretty busy. We took a spontaneous five-day trip to Amsterdam for Queensday, carrying only one full luggage case of photographic equipment with us. Which was good, because Amsterdam is crowded around Queensday. You can tell the tourists from the locals, because the tourists are wearing gigantic orange hats [insert picture of Andrew in hat here] and attempting to look Dutch, while the locals are wearing blue jeans and chilling in their boats going up and down the canals. The World Press Photo competition's exhibit was in town, which was awesome. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Rijksmuseum to sit in front of the Night Watch for a while, but sadly, a horde of loud French-speaking tourists with a tour guide prevented peaceful contemplation.

The flight back involved Orbitz "accidentally" cancelling half our flight reservations (orbitz sucks!), so we ended up in Charles deGaulle airport for five hours while waiting for the next flight back to the states (CDG sucks!), where I made the best of the situation by working on a design doc on my laptop (productivity! yay!), but at least we were upgraded to business class for the international leg of the flight (reclining seats and champagne! yay!), after which we spent three hours in Atlanta (sucking much less than CDG), and after getting through the security checkpoint my laptop would no longer boot (productivity lost! x-rays suck!), and finally arriving home nearly 24 hours after leaving Amsterdam. So. No more Orbitz for me.

In mid-May we went to Lightning in a Bottle, a hippie music festival near Santa Barbara. We carried the full package of photographic gear this time: light rigs, extra cameras, light meters, loads of film, the cute reflector gadgets, and cables that I swear do not go with this camera but are on hand Just In Case; all of it requiring that it carefully be repackaged each time the setup has to move another hundred yards to get better "flow". I've always thought of camping as something you do with just the gear that fits on your back, but apparently that's not the custom in California. :) "Camping" involved an air mattress. With an electric gadget to inflate it. And pillows. Actually, it's kinda nice to have pillows. The music was pretty sweet too, lots of electronic stuff. Here's the pictures.

Last weekend I drove the gorilla crew around San Francisco to take promotional photos for the fun run coming up on June 10. (Photo gear filled the car trunk, but required no actual carrying on my part.) This will be my first fun run, and while we will be wearing gorilla suits, at least it looks like it will be a cold morning in SF. It's not too late to register, if you're into that sort of thing. Anyway, last weekend, the gorilla organizers and associated hangers-on dressed up in gorilla suits and drove go-cars around the touristy part of SF, periodically unloading to take photos, shoot video, and hand out flyers, (photos of the gorillas in action) and I got to hone my skills at veering in and out of city traffic on a holiday weekend, with various people hanging out the car windows with videocameras. This escape from Alcatraz moment is my favorite.

The cat is now hinting loudly that he wants attention.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

that whole don imus thing

So why is it that South Park is funny, but Don Imus isn't? I'm as willing as the next guy to laugh at jokes made about groups I identify with (which is to say, not if I'm cranky or it's not funny), so what's different here? My first reaction to the news report I read about his remark was "wow, that's a dumb thing to say in front of a hot mic, but whatever" but after I heard an audio clip of it, my perspective changed. Cause you know how sometimes when someone's telling a joke, there's an edge in their voice to show they're not really kidding? That's what the clip sounded like: a guy who thought that the women of the Rutgers team maybe didn't deserve the success they'd had that season, a guy savoring his own alliterative cleverness in causally dismissing their accomplishments. If he'd said something similar about a group of white male NBA players, it might have been funny. Or at least less ... serious.

I guess I'm willing to laugh at a offensive joke that's about my group as long as I think the room is laughing with me, not at me. Because if they're laughing at me, then it's pretty stupid of me to play along - it'll entrench the underlying stereotype. Which is why South Park is funny: the writers don't take anything seriously, and the offensiveness is equal-opportunity. If everybody's a target, nobody's a target, in some sense.

Monday, April 09, 2007

the benefits of being marginally in shape

I can't decide which was the coolest thing to happen since I last posted. This:

or figuring out how to link tight turns on a snowboard. (Which there are totally some pictures of somewhere, but not yet online.)

I spent five days skiing in a snowstorm in early February, which was awesome and not at all crowded. Especially on the days it was raining below 7000 feet, in which I discovered that my gear is not nearly as waterproof as its tags claim. A few sunny weeks later we were up at Sierra with Agi and Kelle, who snowboard, so I figured I'd rent a board and hopefully not fall on my butt too much. A definite upside to six months of yoga and belly dancing is increased core strength and balance, and returning to snowboarding was easier than I thought it would be. By the end of the day I was linking turns all the way down the hill, traversing without serious difficulty, and on the just-the-right-steepness parts actually doing the thing where you don't actually turn, but just sort of lean back and forth to bleed off speed. That must have a name.

Fast forward a few weeks weeks (past lots of cold weather, sorta meeting Hillary Clinton, finally getting a new bike, and belatedly getting gloves to wear while riding said bike in said cold weather), and we went to Cancun for Andrew's spring break. In my first 24 hours in Cancun, two different organizations tried to sell me timeshares and I fell into a gaping pothole and twisted my ankle; some cheap beer later, Andrew also tripped on a pothole. Fortunately, the week went uphill from there, as we visited seven archaeological sites in eight days. (And on Day Nine we rested - see above picture - because Andrew finally got tired of pretending his newly-sprained ankle didn't hurt.) Anyway, the whole week had super nice weather, lots of tacos, and I picked up at least a few dozen spanish words. The piles of rubble began to blur together at some point, but my favorite was Ek-Balam, where they actually let you climb up on the ruins. (Not so at Chichen Itza, which was packed full of tourists for the equinox.) The least impressive piles of rubble were the ones on the island of Cozumel. The guidebook is totally right: spend your time in Cozumel in the water with a snorkel mask on. If you must venture inland 12 miles to the ruins, rent a car instead of the crappiest bicycles you have ever seen, because it will be hot in the middle of the day and there will be completely unpaved chunks of "road" to clog up the "gear" on the "bicycle".

vacation photos

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

hoping for snow

The view of Tahoe from the top of Kirkwood was fantastic, despite the 30 mph winds blowing the last remaining particles of snow off the mountain and into my face. I had plenty of time to enjoy the view while trying to decide how to ski down that sheet of ice without falling on my butt.

Ice and -20 degree weather notwithstanding, it was a great three-day weekend. Extreme cold has a way of keeping other people off the mountain, so once you get bundled up in enough layers, there aren't any lift lines to get in the way. It hasn't snowed in a few weeks anywhere around here (although tonight it is raining in SF so I'm optimistic that it's snowing in Tahoe) so the snow wasn't great, but still skiiable (except for the aforementioned sheet of ice at the top). The wind tended to blow the snow into drifts among the trees, so the off-trail snow conditions were actually pretty good - well worth exploring the less-beaten path. We stayed at the resort instead of a motel in South Lake Tahoe, so no driving in the mornings (yay!) and having a room with a kitchen means you can cook your own food (double yay! salads and sandwiches instead of burgers and sausage). The masseuse at the resort will even do in-room massage!

If it is actually snowing now, next weekend should be even better.

[Special shout-out to my little sister who's just turned 21 - happy birthday, Amy!]