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Google Holiday Party 2018: Wonderland

14 Dec

When James told me the Christmas party was Wonderland themed I was like “Oh nice. Winter Wonderland!”

Nah. Alice in Wonderland.IMG_20171209_195208

It was held at the Exploratorium, which is an interactive science museum, and we could look at all the exhibits (mostly) without lines.

Here is James (you’ll just have to trust me on that) in a weird helmet thing that he kept changing the colours for with a little dial on the side.
IMG_20171209_194448He used this spinning wheel to change the direction his chair turned in.
IMG_20171209_211923My favourite exhibit was the Drawing Board. The other time I went to the Exploratorium this was really hard to get a ticket for, but at the party we just walked straight on (and started a movement! I think people didn’t realise it was a thing before we did it).

We picked four colours, swung the machine how we wanted and let the momentum draw pretty patterns for us.
00082IMG_00082_BURST20171209200304_COVERWe also went to the Tactile Dome which was free for the evening (it normally costs $8-15).

There was quite a long line for it – maybe 30 minutes? But it was pretty cool – you had to take off your shoes and feel your way through this pitch black route with slides, a mini rope course, bits where you had to crouch and climb, etc.

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image from Exploratorium website

I only saw one casino table this year, but that makes sense when there is so much to do at the Exploratorium. Otherwise it was pretty similar to previous Christmas parties – open bar (no signature cocktails this year though), sushi bar, taco bar and photo booths.
IMG_20171214_111423One thing that was new was the boba tea room (a huge hit!). They had several milk teas available – Hong Kong milk tea, taro, and jasmine are the ones I remember – and it was a really nice non-alcoholic option.

I also loved the little teapot sugar cookies they had as part of the dessert buffet:
IMG_20171209_224322Adorable. (I had two!)

We did a lot of standing around and chatting with James’ coworkers so we didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked. James gets free entry to the Exploratorium as a Google perk so maybe we’ll head back another day and play with all the exhibits!

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I Still Call Australia Home

10 Oct

We just got back from three weeks in Australia! We were efficiently visiting for two weddings – Julian’s and my cousin Jon’s. Like last time, we used pretty much all our free time to catch up with friends and family (and also gorge ourselves).

Plane Anthropology

On our flight to Melbourne, our section of the plane (the blue Economy Plus area) had hardly anyone in it – behold!

Screenshot_20170904-223549I had optimistically put myself in 21L and James in 22L but had been obsessively monitoring the situation in case of a flood of newcomers to our section – I figured rows 16 (the one we vacated), 17, 18 and 20 would be my canaries in the coal mine, and if I saw those starting to fill up I’d change our seats so James and I were in the same row.

It was pretty interesting to watch people figure out that there were empty rows for the taking, and start to spread out and stake their claim. The first people to catch on were a group of guys in rows 22 and 23 – they separated and took the DEFs in row 20 and 21. The other empty rows were taken maybe 10-20 minutes after we’d sat down, and well before the boarding doors closed. 24DEF was the last to go, and after that it was people just circling around looking for empty rows. I counted eight of us who had the very best situation – an ABC or JKL row to themselves (DEF was less optimal because you didn’t have a wall to lean your back against to stretch your legs out on the seats).

I also thought it was interesting how reluctant people were to move to a row where someone was already sitting. As far as I could tell, almost everyone who started with their own row stayed that way. Everyone technically only had the right to their own seat, but clearly the seat poachers realised how desirable it was to have a row to yourself and didn’t want to be the one to take that away from someone (also a lot of people had defensively moved to the middle seat of their row).

Which brings me to the 17JKL bloc. I was particularly fascinated with it because it was one of the few filled rows. 16JKL was also full but the guy there moved to 16ABC pretty quickly, and the 16s weren’t really that desirable because the seat arms don’t lift up (which was partially why we had moved our seat allocation). But anyway, early on in the boarding process (after the 22/23 guys had spread out but before other rows had been taken) I saw a lady from 17JKL look around and realise that the blue section was likely to have empty seats. She asked a flight attendant if she could move, and I guess the flight attendant told her that after boarding she could take any empty seat, because she stayed put but kept looking around.

Which was a huge mistake, because by the time she started walking around, all the rows had been claimed, and even people who had moved (and had just as little “right” to the row as her – except for the apparently crucial part of being there first) had started to feel territorial about their space. I heard her ask to sit with a single in 17 or 18 ABC, who straight up lied to her face and told her that someone else was sitting there! She got rejected from another row and was roaming around looking for someone who was too nice to say no (from my live email updates to Cat and Ivo: “the unwanted lady just moved seats again to someone else’s row. She was like “can I join you here?” NO! Nobody wants you!!”).

Obviously she had to do it because moving would be a significant upgrade for her, but just as obviously people didn’t want her in their row because it would be a significant downgrade for them. I think she ended up in 18DEF on her third attempt.

The flight took off 30+ minutes late, but watching people tetris around was the most engrossing 30+ minutes I’ve ever spent on a plane. Also I slept nearly the whole way, sat with my legs stretched for the rest, had nobody reclined in front of me, nobody pulling my seat to get up, no lines for the toilet, and had three tray tables/seat backs to organise my stuff – highly recommended!

(I had high hopes for our return flight which was looking similarly empty, but it filled up a couple of days beforehand. So we did the only reasonable thing and upgraded to business. =P)

Catching Up

The whole point of visiting Melbourne is to catch up with family and friends, and we always make the most of it! I love our friends in Seattle and SF, but there’s nothing quite like being around the people we grew up with. We met up with my school friends, James’ school friends, James’ computer science friends, and my cousins.

Being with my cousins reminded me of when we were kids and hung out every weekend (except half of them have kids of their own now!)
IMG_20170928_163922I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but Cat said that she also got teary-eyed looking at that picture. We were so close growing up, and it’s so much fun hanging out with them – we’re only fully assembled every couple of years or so, because of Klene living in Sydney and me in San Francisco.

Last time we visited Melbourne we didn’t see as much of my parents as I would have liked, so this time we had a weekly dinner with them and Cat/Mitch.

It’s funny, because I feel like at times, Cat and mum didn’t always get along that well – Cat used to get exasperated with her easily, and mum would come to me and be like “you tell Cat to do X, because Cat won’t listen to me”. But now Cat writes all these funny, sweet anecdotes about mum on facebook, where apparently “Mama Chen” has quite the following among Cat’s friends – even some of my friends have told me they love the Mama Chen facebook updates!
21768353_10156217380865656_6916487172671501806_n (1)All of James’ high school friends have kids now, and about half of my school friends have kids. Everyone is getting so old! Here we are with James’ uni friends after a brunch catch-up:
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Stuff I Had Totally Forgotten About:

Chicken Salt

The first time we went to get fish and chips (with flake! Not that cod bullshit they have here) and they asked if we wanted regular or chicken salt, James and I were like “OMG how could we have forgotten about chicken salt???”

How is it not a thing here? Possibly for the same reason the US doesn’t have Burger Rings, chicken Twisties and chicken flavoured chips (that aren’t a novelty flavour like chicken and waffles) – Nancy said “people in the US don’t like meat-flavoured chips” (!!!)

But anyway, we brought back three different kinds of chicken salt.

Magpies

I never saw them in Seattle or SF but they’re everywhere in Melbourne. I was walking down the street and heard a magpie sing and was hit with this intense wave of nostalgia. I used to hear that sound all the time, and hearing it again after all those years felt simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Melbourne Food

It is so good, especially the Asian food. James and I reckon the best Asian restaurants we’ve been to in the US would be middle of the pack in Melbourne.

James had his first proper Melbourne coffee and said he’d forgotten how good it is – and also how strong it is! We went out to brunch with Joel, Nancy, Damo, Joan and their kids, and afterwards James said he was really jittery from the coffee – whereas Joel and Nancy made themselves another cup when they got home.

Anyway, here is a random selection of food we ate and took photos of:

My pavlova freakshake at Naughty Boy cafe:
IMG_20170917_095758Sushi platter from Shyun:
IMG_20170923_181953The “Money to Burn” cocktail at Eau de Vie:

20170925_085924-ANIMATIONEau de Vie was really fun – the cocktails were delicious and beautifully presented. We love speakeasies and didn’t realise that they were now a thing in Melbourne. Mitch had a cocktail with some fairy floss and a paper plane:
IMG_20170913_204716 I think this one involved a drink being poured into a glass full of hickory smoke. 00004IMG_00004_BURST20170913212612_COVER
Next time we go back to Melbourne James wants to do Eau de Vie’s food/cocktail tasting menu because he was absolutely in love with the place.

(Also, James fell asleep on the train ride home. It turned out he had actually started to get tired after dinner and before we went on a 20 minute hunt for a speakeasy, and certainly well before we had 3-4 drinks each at said speakeasy – but he said he was having such a good time with Cat and Mitch that he “wanted to keep the party going”).

The “Meat Fruit” at Dinner by Heston:
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Vegemite gyoza at Shizuku Ramen & Craft Beer. You can take the girl out of Australia …
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Zombie VR

Ivo said she wanted to do this, and to be honest at the start I was dubious. I mainly went along with it because I thought it would be fun to hang out with everyone – I could take or leave the VR experience, really. It was at Zero Latency in Melbourne and it ended up being amazing.

They were running a bit late so we could see the people before us. They were wearing their gear – VR set, headphones, motion capture stuff, guns, some sort of computer backpack – yelling at each other, and sort of shuffling around tentatively in this massive warehouse space. I imagine we looked just as goofy when we were doing it.IMG_20170917_205923_1It was really immersive – not just 3D but completely responsive to our actions because of those little motion capture bobble things. I can’t believe there isn’t something like this in SF!

We did the zombie and the space one, of which I think the space one was better. There was some really cool stuff, like where you walked up this torus, and when you looked down you could see your friends still down below you and it felt completely real. And walking across high platforms, hiding behind boxes, dodging baddies … it was really, really cool.

The zombie one was just a straight up shooter experience, which is why it felt a little less interesting. It was still really immersive though, and thus pretty freaky having a zombie running right at you.

Mitch did really well and ended up coming with the third highest score ever. The guy working there was really impressed! They sent us all these cool stats afterwards, like how accurate our shots were, how many points we’d scored, how far we’d moved etc. I thought the funniest stat was that during the space boss battle, all of us moved a pretty consistent distance – from 8-17 meters … except James, who apparently just spent the whole time walking around and had travelled 112 meters! WTF James!

Souvenirs

Generally stuff is way cheaper in the US so we tend not to buy too much stuff when we visit Australia. James usually replenishes his supply of Bonds undies, and I pick up some clothes, but this time we decided to go all-in on Aussie snacks:
IMG_20171001_174837Things James missed the most: banana lollies, wizz fizz and musk sticks

Things I missed the most: chicken Twisties, Burger Rings, honeycomb chocolate, noodles

You can’t really tell in the photo but there’s a couple of boxes of Wei Lih noodles that the Pringles and chicken salt are sitting on. They’re sooo much better than any other instant noodle I’ve had and I can’t find them in the US. They were $23 for a pack of five on eBay – outrageous!

James and I taped two boxes together and checked them as luggage, and they survived the trip really well. And it was only a little bit embarrassing collecting them from the carousel and carrying them through the airport. Cat reckons I’d be able to tape four boxes next time – I think definitely three, but I’m not sure if four would exceed the allowed luggage dimensions.

I also bought some sneakers from Country Road (I’m having mild regrets on that one – they look cool but they’re made of fucking neoprene and make my feet sweaty) and this awesome croissant rain coat from Gorman that I will never, ever regret:

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image from Gorman

Every time we visit, we’re surprised at how much cooler Melbourne is than we remember, and how our friends are just as wonderful as we remember. And we sort of get stars in our eyes and think about moving back even though it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we just miss being around people who sound like us, you know?

But anyway, we’ll be back next year for Cat’s wedding!

Outside Lands 10th Anniversary

22 Aug

James went to Outside Lands last year as part of a team bonding trip, but this year was my first time. Festivals aren’t normally my thing – I prefer sitting down at a concert and I hate how pushy people can get – but how can you live in San Francisco and not go to Outside Lands at least once?

Obligatory windmill pic!
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On Friday I was mainly interested in Gorillaz so was happy just to follow James, who had a full schedule of who he wanted to see. It was really chill for the earlier acts – at Grace Mitchell we got really close and still had a decent amount of personal space – but in the afternoon it got more crowded.

We were in a reasonably good spot for Gorillaz, they brought out a shit ton of guests, and they played almost everything I wanted. =)

Saturday was James’ big day. He wanted to see Royal Blood, Cage the Elephant and Metallica, who were performing one after the other on the main stage. Our starting position was better than our Gorillaz spot the other night, and as people left for other acts we kept moving up. We got pretty close!
00002IMG_00002_BURST20170812185149_COVERKyle and Ximena got to Outside Lands partway through Cage the Elephant, but by that time there was no way they were going to be able to get to us. One guy who had left and then re-joined his friends said that when he was trying to get back, someone grabbed him by the neck to prevent him from moving forward. People were getting very territorial – I saw one girl yelling at a group of people who had sat down between acts (she thought they were taking up too much room).

This was the crowd about 30 minutes before Metallica, going as far back as the eye could see:
IMG_20170812_193006Our patch of the crowd was great, but a couple of songs into the set some insane hobo-looking guys violently shoved their way to the front. Everyone hated them and I was a bit scared that a fight would break out – James said the guy next to him said if something happened he had his back!

A side benefit was that I was shoved so aggressively that I went from 4th row to 2nd – which doesn’t sound that impressive, but was actually insane because people weren’t moving for anyone. And instead of them hating me (neck grab-ee, never forget!) I had several people ask if I was OK. =)
00000IMG_00000_BURST20170812213422_COVERThis was James’ third (maybe fourth?) Metallica concert and the closest he’s gotten by far. He was so happy!

His childhood idol:
IMG_20170812_211741(James: #noscope)

You know you’re close when they’re larger in real life than on the giant screen!
IMG_20170812_220614After the concert Metallica threw some guitar picks out to the crowd and I managed to grab one. When I made my way back to James he said he wanted to scavenge for a pick that might have fallen on the ground (along with pretty much everyone else in the first ten rows). Then when I handed it to him, he just lit up with happiness. =D
Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 2.58.30 PM (1)
It is now living in a fancy display case as a cool souvenir of that night. =)

On Sunday we were pretty tired and there weren’t any acts that James was super excited about, so we sat far away from the action. It was very much needed after the intense Metallica crowd! Though also, being so close made me regret we weren’t at Gorillaz earlier to get a great spot – though then we would have missed out on a couple of acts James wanted to see. Decisions, decisions.

So that was our Outside Lands. I still really hate crowds, but I think it was worth braving them for this experience. I haven’t decided if I want to go next year though – maybe, depending on the line-up. We’ll see!

New York – Again!

15 Aug

Cat and Mitch were visiting NYC and James was able to time one of his work trips so we’d be there at the same time. Then Brian joined us from Atlanta on the weekend, so it was a big week!
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AirBNB Disaster

We usually get a hotel but went with AirBNB this time – but when James called the host to let him know we were on our way he didn’t answer. So for the next couple of hours James was on hold with three different AirBNB customer service reps trying to figure out what to do. Apparently they couldn’t get a hold of the host or their emergency manager, who was the person that could authorise James to get a hotel room. Eventually James got fed up and told them it was unreasonable of them to expect us to sit around until they figured their shit out, so we were going to get a hotel and they were going to pay for it.

Easier said than done – we tried four hotels in the area and they were all fully booked. Panic was definitely settling in as we wandered the streets of NY at 1am with our luggage, frantically looking up different hotels on our phones.

Finally the host called and said he’d fallen asleep. We were pretty angry but mainly just relieved that we’d have somewhere to stay that night.

The next day AirBNB called James (while he was in a meeting), apologised, and said they hoped last night hadn’t soured him on AirBNB. They offered him $100 credit, and James got them to give it to him as cash.

So yeah, that was incredibly shitty. When I told Brian and James told his NY colleagues what had happened, we found out they all didn’t use AirBNB anymore because they’d had similar experiences.

The Great Comet

Every time we go to NY we like to see a Broadway show. This time we saw The Great Comet – and it was a good thing we did because it’s closing in early September. The set is absolutely spectacular:

IMG_20170801_185734-PANOI loved the interactiveness of the show. The story was kind of weak, but I liked several of the songs and it was a great experience.

Afterwards we had dinner at 2nd City and it was fucking amazing.

Dear Irving, Momofuku and Pouring Ribbons

On Wednesday James had work drinks at Dear Irving and then we headed to Momofuku Noodle Bar. It was delicious (though James preferred the pork buns from 2nd City) and we got in just before the main rush so didn’t have to wait at all.

We ate lots of food – ramen, buns, lychee slushies, ginger scallion noodles – and took lots of photos but this one of the bo ssam is the only one that turned out.
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Afterwards we walked to a speakeasy called Pouring Ribbons. They change their menu regularly, all of it based around a central theme. This time it was Revolutionary Artists (James said he can’t remember what it was last time he went – “maybe movies or something”)

James ordered an Andy Warhol and it came in a sealed glass Coke bottle. And this was his Cai Guo-Qiang (an artist who is apparently famous for using gunpowder and fireworks in his art):

Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170802212937

Google Tour and Various Bars

On Thursday James gave Cat and Mitch a tour of the office and then we had a Google lunch. For dinner James went to Nomad Bar, where it was way too loud and crowded but James said the burger was the best he’s ever had. Then we met up with Cat and Mitch at Raine’s Law Room afterwards.

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photo stolen from Cat

Now that James and I are old we can’t stand loud bars so we pretty much exclusively go to speakeasies. We went to Angel’s Share with Brian and it was so lovely, quiet and uncrowded, and the drinks were also wonderful.

I also discovered that I only really like going to NY bars on weeknights. This trip was our first experience with Friday/Saturday night and it’s such a huge difference when we’re used to short (or no) waits for the best bars in the city.

Central Park and Sleep No More

On Saturday morning we had brunch and then cycled around Central Park. OMG it is so much easier than cycling around San Francisco!

Here are James and Brian at Belvedere Castle inside the park – so majestic!
IMG_20170805_150124 And the view from the castle. IMG_20170805_150229Earlier that week it had been really hot and humid, so we got  lucky that it was such a nice day for cycling.

In the evening we went to Sleep No More, which we were looking forward to because we had such a great experience last time. Unfortunately this time was a complete bust – I hadn’t realised how different it is now. They pack in the crowds and it’s gone from being really intimate and intense to being part of a huge mob that chases the performers around.

The first Sleep No More was one of my favourite memories of NYC but our second time was really disappointing. =( I was so pissed that I stayed up late writing an angry Yelp review lol.

We should have taken the money and gone to a Broadway show or a really nice dinner. But here, have some cool street art that we saw on our walk to Sleep No More:
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Bagels, One World Observatory and Dead Rabbit

Brian wanted a bagel on our last day in NYC so we went to Russ & Daughters. We got there around midday and it was pretty busy, which seemed like a good sign.
IMG_20170806_125719 Inside it was really crowded at the door but much roomier at the back of the store. We took a number and waited maybe 20 minutes. It would have been shorter except there was one guy making a monster order – like 50+ bagels!IMG_20170806_124429Brian and James weren’t super wowed by their bagels but mine (plain bagel, caviar cream cheese and western salmon) was awesome – much better than the Murray’s bagel I had last trip.
IMG_20170806_130356Then we headed to the One World Observatory, which is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and had amazing 360 degree views of the city. Of course we took a billion selfies.IMG_20170806_141126

At the base of the windows they had these cool cityscape silhouettes (Statue of Liberty in the background):
IMG_20170806_143740 I’m super intrigued by this photo. What am I pointing at? Is it the reason I’m making that distressed face?IMG_20170806_140749Afterwards we wandered to the NY Stock Exchange and then had drinks at Dead Rabbit before it was time to head to the airport.

We sprung for first class on the flight back because at the time of booking economy was so expensive that first was only $200 more. We normally fly economy (or, as our Hungarian friends call it, “chicken class”) so it was pretty cool, though kind of unnecessarily fancy – they give you a little tablecloth for your tray table!

Here was the dinner menu (we both got the lamb):
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We also got a little amenity kit and a constant stream of very weak Moscow Mules. The pillow and blanket were also significantly upgraded from economy (which sounds like faint praise but when I saw James unwrap his blanket I made an “oooOOOoooh!” sound).

James really liked the extra room and has decided all of his future work flights will be in first.

When we got home we felt super sluggish cos we’d been eating out and going to bars all week. Like I said earlier, we are super old now and no longer spring back from a week of gluttony. But it’s still totally worth it for special occasions, like seeing Brian and entertaining Cat and Mitch. =)

A Series of Exciting Events Sponsored by Google

12 Jul

Between all the offsites and public holidays, James hasn’t worked a full week in over a month. He can never go back to Australia – he is far too spoiled here!

Disneyland

James had to go to Anaheim for a work convention. Since his airfare, hotel and taxis were covered, it was a no-brainer for me to tag along and go to Disneyland for a couple of days. Coming so soon after our trip to Disneyworld, I was curious how Disneyland would compare.IMG_20170624_181532Disneyland has just two parks (conveniently located across the street from each other) – Disneyland and California Adventure – versus Disneyworld’s four. It doesn’t have the Magic Band system so getting fast passes was a lot less convenient. Disneyworld was definitely more elaborate, but I don’t care so much about getting the immersive Disney experience and was glad we didn’t have to stay at a Disney hotel to be conveniently located.

I also thought the rides at Disneyland were better – every adult ride that had a Florida equivalent, the California version was more fun (except for Haunted Mansion – that seemed pretty much the same to me). I also really enjoyed Indiana Jones in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure.
IMG_20170623_112304(This was actually part of a series of signs one behind the other that said something like “Sheriff’s old but he ain’t slow” but I like this picture because it seems like an unnecessary burn on the sheriff).

James’ conference started winding down on the Saturday so he joined me for one day at Disney, where we focused on the stuff that was the most different from Disneyworld.

His (and my!) absolute favourite thing was the Animation Academy, which was a class where you could learn to draw different Disney characters. There was a schedule of different characters, with old favourites like Mickey, Minnie and Donald, and new characters like Baymax and Olaf.

There was a screen on stage where you could see the artist’s hand as they drew to help guide you:
IMG_20170624_110256James and I went for the Baby Groot class and he liked it so much we went again for the Steamboat Mickey class. Here are our masterpieces side by side (I’m on the left and James is on the right):

Baby Groot
IMG_20170712_130423I went too big and Groot got too hard to manage. =( James’ is much cuter.

Steamboat Mickey
IMG_20170712_131350When I started Steamboat Mickey, James looked over at me and shook his head because I’d gone too big again. I think it turned out OK though! I’m sad I forgot to colour in Mickey’s head like James did – I didn’t notice it until just then and I think it makes a big difference.

The park started to get busy and hot in the late morning so it was really nice to go to a quiet, air-conditioned room and chill out for awhile.

LA Offsite

This was a team bonding trip where James went to LA and did cool stuff like go on food tours and drink a lot. Every time he sent me a selfie (James: a group selfie is called a weefie) he was hanging out with different people. This one he took outside Paramount Pictures:
IMG_20170608_194617They also went to a Q&A with various industry people, and also famous people like Conan O’Brien and Snoop Dogg.

James: The rumour going around was that they kept having to reschedule Snoop Dogg’s interview because he was too high to get out of his limo.

They also went to a private Snoop Dogg concert which was pretty cool.
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California’s Great America

Last month Google hired out California’s Great America for an employee (and family) picnic. It was on a weekday, so it was nice that employees didn’t have to dip into their weekend to go.

People we talked to said they added too many departments this year and that in other years you could walk onto almost all the rides. That would have been awesome! Oh well – we spent a good amount of time in line but managed to ride everything we wanted.

The Tiki Twirl was fun! Long line though – maybe 20-30 minutes?
IMG_20170628_134941We waited a similar amount of time for Loggers Run and it was pretty disappointing. Disney definitely does the log flume rides better.
IMG_20170628_172301Whitewater Falls was a much better ride. James decided he hadn’t gotten splashed enough on the actual ride and went to the bridge to get re-splashed by the next boat.IMG_20170628_121428By far our favourite ride of the day was Xtreme Skyflyer. Normally it costs extra (I guess because it’s so elaborate and awesome) but it was included in the day for everyone. It had the longest line – I think we waited almost an hour for this.
IMG_20170628_102533There was a really detailed pre-ride process. You’d go up, put on the harness, get it checked and re-checked, then they’d explain how the ride worked. Then you went in those cherry-picker machine thingies where they hooked you up to the cables. And then you got slowly hoisted up until you were crazy high off the ground (150+ feet/17 storeys) and it was fucking terrifying. Then when you pulled the ripcord you’d free fall for ages and then swing in a huge pendulum under the arc.

I took this photo of another group while we were waiting in line:IMG_20170628_104432It was insanely fun. Getting slowly raised up was scary because you could see how high up you were, and the initial drop was also freaky, but the swinging afterwards was actually really relaxing. =)

The food was all free as well. We ate later in the afternoon so the lines weren’t too bad, but they looked really long at lunch.

Each employee also got to play $10 worth of games so of course James went to his nemesis – Jacob’s Ladder. And yet again he failed to beat it. (I’m kind of glad though – look at those giant fucking prizes – what would you even do with them??)IMG_20170628_125106So yeah, that’s been our last month. Thanks Google! =)

Comedy Clusterfest!

30 Jun

This was the inaugural year of Comedy Clusterfest, a 3 (well, 2.5) day, partially-outdoor comedy festival in San Francisco. The headliners were Kevin Hart (Friday), Bill Burr (Saturday), and Jerry Seinfeld (Sunday), as well as other well-known comedians like Hannibal Buress, Sarah Silveman, Fred Armisen, T.J. Miller and Pete Davidson.

James and I got early bird tickets for $200 each – expensive, but pretty good value given how many shows we saw. We saw all the headliners, discovered a lot of new comedians, got some swag, and overall had a great time.

There was an outdoors South Park exhibit you could take photos in:
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And a real life Paddy’s Pub (where you could order Milk Steak and Rum Ham):
IMG_20170602_173914The only thing we didn’t get to see was the Seinfeld replica apartment, which looked really cool but had lines of 1.5-2 hours.

We mainly stuck to the Bill Graham auditorium, which had back to back comedy sets all weekend and was the best place to camp out if you wanted to enjoy yourself without having to wait in line all day. Here are the seats we got on Friday.
IMG_20170602_174950People had cottoned onto the Bill Graham strategy by the second day, so our seats were not quite as awesome (though still pretty good – front row mezzanine). The auditorium was packed all Saturday and Sunday – standing room only for Tig Notaro and Hannibal Buress.
IMG_20170603_150923We also discovered the Papa Johns Mystery Box game, where you chose a door to win random prizes, the best ones being $5-10 vouchers you could spend on food and drinks at the festival.
IMG_20170603_184931There was a guy inside manually dropping prizes in the compartments. When it was my turn he dangled a souvenir Clusterfest tote bag in front of me, then dropped two $5 vouchers instead.

Papa Johns Box Guy: There you go! That’s a better prize isn’t it?
Me: Actually, I would take the bag …
Papa Johns Box Guy: Oh. Well you can have the bag as well then.

=D

Between us, James and I got $25 or $30 in vouchers, so that was really cool. =) We gave one to Patrick (who only got $5, so James felt obliged to share the wealth) and spent the rest on a coffee for James and booze the next day.

The evening headliners were all outside at the Colossal Stage, which was a bit of a problem because it was super cold every night – pretty much all the comedians complained about it.

The second night for Bill Burr, our group split up with some of us standing further away and James, Patrick and I braving the crush nearer the stage. It was a pretty stressful experience getting jostled around and we were debating whether to head back to our friends when one of the event organisers started randomly picking people from the crowd to sit in the chairs up front.
IMG_20170603_230239The three of us could not stop grinning afterwards. =D OMG it was such a better view and experience in the seats.

We were pretty lucky overall that weekend, and got good seats for all the shows we were interested in. Including second row centre seats for the packed Bill Burr and Jerry Seinfeld Q&A on Sunday (the highlight of the festival for me). Which also ended up being second row centre seats for the Hannibal Buress set that made James double over and tear up from laughing so hard. And second row centre seats for watching Pete Davidson absolutely bomb when he repeated a set he’d done the previous day.

Sorry it’s super blurry, but right after James took the photo they started clamping down hard on photos so we didn’t get a chance to re-take it.
IMG_20170604_142153(Margarita courtesy of Papa John’s)

We also got coveted seats for the Seinfeld evening show at the Colossal Stage, but that one was a huge mess. The organisers fucked up and wouldn’t let in the people who had lined up because they weren’t clearing out the people who were already there for the previous act (which was protocol every other night and the festival’s official policy). Instead they let in a bunch of randoms who lied and said that they already had seats. I know they lied because people at festivals always lie, and also because after 50 people blew by us, James went up and they let him go through (and the organiser was like “yeah I remember you”). =/

So James and I ended up getting seats for Seinfeld, but it was bittersweet because our friends didn’t get in. =( Seinfeld was really funny – it was really impressive seeing him live, especially after hearing him talk about the craft of comedy at the Q&A earlier that day.

There are definitely some kinks to iron out, but we had a blast at the festival. If they do it next year with a similarly stacked lineup I would totally go again. I would also bring a much thicker jacket or a blanket for the evening show because brrr.

Behold … the Corpse Flower!

20 Jun

So the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers has a Titan Arum (known as the Corpse Flower because it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms). The bloom happens every 3-10 years for a couple of days at a time, and last week was its time to shine stink.

It bloomed Thursday, and we went Friday around 6:45pm. This was the line outside to buy tickets:
IMG_20170616_191007It took maybe 20-30 minutes to get to the front counter, and inside there was another line that took maybe 40-60 minutes. By the time we left around 8pm, the outside ticket line was three times as long.

The guy that worked there told us the smell had peaked Thursday night while the conservatory was closed. Even a day later you could see the flower starting to shut:
IMG_20170616_200046Where we took the photo was the place you could smell it the best. I don’t know what rotting flesh smells like, but this smelled like a bag of garbage left in the sun. Apparently at peak bloom you could smell it throughout the greenhouse.
IMG_20170616_200835Even though we didn’t get to see the corpse flower at its stinky bloomiest, it was really cool. I’m glad we got to see it – ticket sales closed at 8:30pm so I’m pretty sure a lot of the people who were in line outside wouldn’t have been able to get in.

We spent 20x longer waiting in line than we did actually looking at the flower, but I guess it’s a fair trade seeing that it took 10 years to bloom. =)