Tag Archives: Life

Alcatraz!

25 Jun

James and I had put off going to Alcatraz for ages. I’d read that the night tour was much better than the regular tour but you had to book months ahead and, well, we’re just not that organised. But when Luke and Madeleine told us they were visiting for Memorial Weekend it was the perfect opportunity to go. We checked with Michelle and Eliot who also wanted to come, tickets were booked, and we were all set.

The ferry ride there was quite windy but had great views of San Francisco and Alcatraz.
IMG_20150523_180717When we landed we walked uphill from the dock to the main building. Inside, we lined up (at the prison showers!) to get headphones for the audio tour.

We paused our tapes to explore the rec yard, which was one of the areas that they had opened just for the night tour. Here are James and Luke playing imaginary baseball with an indifferent seagull.
IMG_20150523_190509The audio tour was top-notch. It navigated you through the space really well and went into a lot of detail about prison life and various escape attempts.

The only bummer was that there were a lot of people, so the portions of the audio tour where you had to stop and look at stuff you were always in a crowd. I had to be a bit strategic to get this photo.
IMG_20150523_185940The tour guided you through the prison library,solitary confinement cells, visiting area, guards’ offices, dining hall and hospital, giving you information about each location. It was all woven together really well.

This was the program showing the available talks and the parts of the prison that they had opened up for the night tour.
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(lol #cellfie)

I feel like we got the best of both worlds because it was nice and light for photos for most of the tour, we got to see the beautiful sunset, and then it was all dark and atmospheric for the last hour. James went back in the prison after most people had left and said it was much spookier empty.

We spent maybe an hour and a half touring the prison and the rest of the time listening to talks. The talks were held outside and it got quite chilly after the sun set so definitely bring a warm jacket.

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It was super touristy but I think it’s one of those touristy things that’s popular because it’s really worth doing (other things on that list for me: cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and a cycling tour of Napa, both of which I keep meaning to blog about).

But yeah, the Alcatraz tour was really interesting and informative, and if you’re visiting San Francisco I would highly recommend going!

A Day at Maker Faire!

5 Jun

Last month James and I met up with Nick and Kelly at the Bay Area Maker Faire. It’s a fair celebrating science projects and DIY stuff and we thought it was worth checking out!

We were greeted by an enormous fire-breathing robot.
IMG_20150516_103643To interact with the different exhibits you had to sign a waiver and get a wristband. If you went to the booth right by one of the main entrances the line was really long but on the other side of the booth (like literally steps away) there was no line. Score!

This was a cool rhino that you could get inside.
IMG_20150516_113732Also an arena with a bunch of modded bicycles that you could play around on. There were a couple of weird tandem bikes (like where the other seat was on the handlebars), one where the bike went in the opposite direction that you pointed it in, and another where the back half would swing around on its own and made steering really difficult.
IMG_20150516_105640My favourite exhibit was a pedal-powered ferris wheel. It could only fit three people and they gave you quite a generous go on it so the line took awhile to get through (and a couple of people got all the way to the front only to find out that they didn’t have the required wristbands).

The ride needed all three people to be a similar weight or else the lightest person would swing wildly around so I went with a couple of smaller girls while James, Nick and Kelly went together.

James and Kelly were a bit wary so they weren’t pedaling as fast as they could. =(

We also saw a robot that could do that movie thing where someone spreads their hand on a table, gets a knife and stabs it in between each of their fingers really fast. Though there were some stab marks on the dummy hand so I don’t think the technology is quite there yet to demonstrate it with a real one.
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Afterwards we had lunch. I bought some fairy floss for dessert but it was $10 for a bag. What a rip! $10!

We did see something that I had always thought was a myth …
IMG_20150516_130856We wandered inside the main expo hall which had people demonstrating and selling cool stuff. We saw a machine that used magnets to draw cool patterns in the sand, some pixel art that James really liked, and a gumball machine that released a gumball when you gave it a secret knock.
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While Nick and Kelly looked at the lego exhibit James and I watched some drone battles. People had modded drones – one had a baseball bat attached to it! – and were fighting each other in the air. It sounds cooler than it actually was because the drones kept malfunctioning (the baseball bat drone could barely get off the ground) and we had to watch like, 5 aborted matches until we saw one where they actually got to fight. And the actual fight was crap – they would gently brush up against each other which would send one or both crashing to the ground.

James: Are you writing about the fight? And how lame it was?
(long pause) 
James: 
I feel ignored.

We also got to try an Oculus Rift and saw a cannon that shot what I think was puffs of dry ice.
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And here is James in a battle bot. =)
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There was so much other stuff to explore – a sauerkraut-making class, a building full of 3D printers and big piles of lego you could play with.

Oh yeah, and right at the end we saw an actual battle bot (sorry James) shoot a cannon at a car.
IMG_20150516_160810My favourite was still the ferris wheel though. Or maybe the wacky bikes. Nah, it was all great. It was a super fun day!

(But seriously, it was the ferris wheel)

Hiking Around Mount Tamalpais and Lunch at Fish.

28 Apr

Last Sunday we went hiking with Daphne, Chris, Lisa and Cagri. It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect hiking weather, which I’m learning seems to be almost every day here.

The drive up was pretty packed, but I think there were enough different trails that no individual trail was particularly busy. This is us at the start of the hike.

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image from Chris

We intended to do the Rock Creek loop but there were a lot of crossroads and the trail wasn’t well-signed (which was weird because it wasn’t a remote area – at some points we were walking next to cars on the road). I think we managed to stay on the trail for most of it, but we made a wrong turn somewhere in there because we finished much faster than we should have.

Never mind, there were so many hikes in the same area that we just started on another one!

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image from Lisa

We had a peek at the Mountain Theater where they were rehearsing what looked like Peter Pan. The construction was super elaborate and you could see the water from the top seats.
IMG_20150426_110436Then we kept randomly walking. It was a pretty easy hike through meadows and then forest. I preferred the forest parts because we weren’t in the sun as much.
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After the hike we drove to Sausalito for lunch at Fish., a super popular cash-only restaurant. We got there around 1:30pm and there was a massive line.
IMG_20150426_132551It took a long time to get to the front, and the line stayed out the patio gate until around 3pm. At least you could buy drinks while you waited, so everyone got beers and I had a nice refreshing water.

James and I ordered fish and chips and some BBQ oysters. At just under $60 for the two of us it was pretty expensive, especially for a cash-only place!

The food was great though, and the portions were generous. I couldn’t finish mine and had to give James one of my fish and a big handful of chips.
IMG_20150426_142314Stuffed, we went home where I napped until it was time for us to go to Eliot and Michelle’s place to watch Game of Thrones and eat brownies.

It was a pretty busy Sunday but it was nice to get out and explore a bit. =)

Homesick in San Francisco; Wishing I Were Sleepless in Seattle

8 Feb

At the end of February James and I will have been in San Francisco for 6 months. Though I don’t know if it’s fair to count it as 6 months since we went back to Australia for a few weeks and were in corporate housing for 3 months.

I’m still desperately homesick. It’s better than it was (which was crying multiple times a day), but crying a couple of times a week still isn’t great. I’ve never been so sad in my life. If you know me in real life you know I’m really cheery, and I’ve had multiple people tell me that they can’t imagine me not smiling. I don’t recognise myself anymore. I’ve cried more in these past few months than I have the past 31 years. I’m rattled at how fragile my happiness apparently is.

It’s not like I’m living in Siberia or Afghanistan. San Francisco isn’t even very different from Seattle or Melbourne. I’m in a beautiful city in a beautiful house with the best husband in the world, but I can’t stop crying. First world problems indeed.

So here is a list to cheer me up:

Things I Like More About San Francisco

  • James’ career (better paid, more interesting, and the ceiling is higher here than it is in Seattle)
  • Better restaurants
  • Quality and cheapness of produce
  • More things going on in the city
  • Weather (this one is kind of half-hearted because I really liked the overcast drizzly weather in Seattle but people told me that after a few more years it would start to wear on me)

I started to make a list of things I liked more about Seattle but it just made me tear up.

Right now the plan is to stick it out until we can condo convert. That will add value to our place and also make it easier to sell. If I still hate it here we’ll sell and take a loss (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, because if James can keep his SF salary in Seattle it won’t take long to offset any money we lose). If I’m managing okay we’ll stay a few more years. I can imagine getting to a point where I no longer hate it here. I can no longer imagine loving it.

My parents called a couple of nights ago and I just bawled my eyes out. Dad was being sympathetic and telling me the things I have been telling myself – to keep busy, do fun things and establish a routine, and that as an adult I have to take care of myself. And then mum snatched the phone away from him and was like “your dad is wrong. I don’t care how old you are; you will always be my baby and I want you to come home for a month so I can take care of you.”

I can’t even type that without crying.

I miss being within walking distance of all our friends in Seattle. I miss snow-capped mountains. I miss grey skies, constant drizzle and green everywhere.

I miss long, slow days at Shoreham. I miss dinners with my parents. I miss laughing with my cousins. I miss the friends I’ve known since high school. I miss my sunburnt country.

I know this is my brain playing tricks on me. I know that the stress of buying a house has exacerbated my homesickness. I know that homesickness is more about missing familiar things and the sense of belonging, and the only reason I didn’t have it in Seattle was because we were absorbed into a friendship group so quickly.

James has been wonderful, and it helps to know that this isn’t necessarily forever. But if I’m asking him to give up his dream job for me I’m going to try as hard as I can to make that a last resort. We didn’t leave Seattle lightly and I have to trust the decision we made to move to San Francisco and not trust my depression-fogged brain. Because this isn’t me. I don’t get depressed. I’m cheery and happy and fun, and I make lemons out of lemonade.

We joined a gym, so I’m going to get back to my regular workouts. Once we have a working fridge I’ll be able to stock up on meat and vegetables. I’ve been going to meet-ups and have met some really nice people (and some promising couple-friends), but it’s like dating randoms when I want to be in a long-term relationship. I try to remind myself that our friends in Seattle and Melbourne were all randoms once, and as Chuck said, making good friends is just a numbers game. So I’m just taking things one day at a time, and maybe one day I’ll just wake up and be happy again.

A Great Time at Mammoth Mountain

24 Jan

James’ uncle and aunt have a cabin in Mammoth, and they very nicely offered to let us use it. So we bought tickets (using James’ $500 credit from our detoured United flight) and planned a Thursday to Tuesday trip. Unfortunately for us, the storm that was supposed to happen petered out – that’s one of the luxuries I miss about being 1.5 hours from the snow – you could decide the night before (or the morning of!) whether it was worth making the trip.

But anyway, the Mammoth airport is freaking adorable. It’s really small and there what looks like a conveyor belt which is basically just a gate they put your luggage through (so there’d be a backlog if like … five people were slow picking up their bags).

IMG_20150115_163205We took a taxi to the cabin and were greeted by two bears carved out of tree trunks in the front garden. The driver, a Mammoth local, chuckled and said “we like our bears around here.”

We drove to the local Vons (which apparently is the same thing as Safeway) to stock up on supplies. The selection was just as good, if not better, than my local Safeway and the prices were similar – maybe a bit higher but not noticeably so.

Also, a couple of years ago Vons made the news because a bear walked in, stole some apples and left!

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image from the Sierra Times

(“We like our bears around here”)

On Friday morning Steve made us pancakes and we headed to Mammoth. The cabin was within walking distance to a gondola that took us to Canyon Lodge which was very convenient. Cath and Steve were really disappointed with the snow, which apparently hadn’t been added to since Christmas. Admittedly conditions were pretty crap (a lot of rocks even on the groomers, with the added annoyance that I’d see one and go “better avoid that rock”, and then go right over it because I was staring at it) but that was mitigated by the excitement of discovering a new mountain. James and I boarded the whole day and when we got back Cath and Steve made falafels and plied us with wine.

Ohhhhh my God.

Snowboarding all day and walking back to a delicious homecooked meal? Heaven! This was a pattern that would repeat most days we were there. We’d get back, Steve would make us cocktails, and then we’d have dinner and sooo much wine. Then snowboarding the next day!

I discovered that my favourite runs were also Ian and Steve’s favourites. I can’t wait to see what they’re like with more snow.

This was at the summit (11,053 feet). I’ve seen photos where the snow covers most of that pole so you can see what a slow start to the season it’s been.

IMG_20150117_150518James was tired and actually having a bit of trouble at the elevation so he took the gondola back down while I explored on my own for the rest of the day. I also got the impression that he wasn’t having the best time. =( He said “I’m slowing you down. I don’t think you realise just how much better than me you’ve gotten”, which made me simultaneously sad and pleased.

He wants to bring his skis next time because Mammoth has a lot more flats than Stevens. Cath and Steve let us keep our boards at their cabin, so James thinks he might save his board for powder days and ski the rest of the time.

On Sunday James and I had already snowboarded two days in a row, and we weren’t keen on fighting crowds for crappy snow.
IMG_20150117_111538Instead, Cath, Steve and Ian showed us around the area, which was really nice of them. We went to see the tufas at Mono Lake:

IMG_20150118_112736And also to an abandoned mining town:
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Unfortunately Cath, Steve and Ian were so disappointed with the snow that apart from a couple of hours the first day where they showed us the ropes we didn’t get to ride with them. Hopefully by the time Chris comes to visit the conditions will be better and we can all get out together. I’ve snowboarded in worse, though admittedly not much worse. But even though the snow was crap I still had a really great time catching up with family.

Goodbye Mammoth! Fingers crossed next time you have some more snow for us!
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House News!

19 Nov

Lots has been happening on the homebuying front. We’ve been emailing back and forth with our broker, bank and contractors and are finally set to close this Friday!

We won’t be able to move in immediately since we’re getting the floors refinished. They’re currently a dark walnut colour, and I have strong preferences for light wood floors. Plus it’s a north-facing house, so I feel like the dark floors swallow up what little light there is. If all goes well we’ll move in the 1st of December. I soooo can’t wait to get all our stuff back. James misses the TV and our mattress and I miss my Vitamix, our mattress and my ergonomic desk set-up. 3 months in corporate housing is nice but it’s also a really long time to not have roots. Seriously. It’s 1/4 of a year.

I’m looking forward to picking out paints but not looking forward to actually painting. I’ll probably live with paint swatches for way too long while I procrastinate. Luckily we already have most of the furniture we need and most of renovations we want to do aren’t time-sensitive.

The other big thing I want to change is the kitchen. The layout is fine but I basically don’t like anything else (wait no, the sink, tap and range are OK). Eventually want to get a new hood and vent it to outside, a new fridge and a new dishwasher. Also new cupboards. It’s not urgent though, so I’m going to live with the kitchen for awhile before deciding what changes I want to make. Once we’ve closed on the house I’ll have lots of photos so you can see what it looks like.

Now that we aren’t inspecting properties every weekend we’ve been busy meeting new people and catching up with old friends. Everyone lives so far apart though – I really miss having a friendship group where everyone lives within 30 minutes walk of each other. But I’m definitely not as homesick as I was before. I think it’s because I get to see how much James loves his new job and also we’re being more social.

Last Sunday we did an Escape the Room with Bo and Christine and a couple of friends of theirs, and the day before that we saw Interstellar with Elliot and Michelle and a friend of theirs. And the weekend before that we had dinner with James’ former coworker and his wife. This weekend we’re meeting up with some other Google employees and I’ve joined a couple of Meetup groups. Plus Mike is visiting family in the area over Thanksgiving and John is in Oakland for work early December. And Duncan and Buzz might be coming to visit in January. Busy busy!

Googleween!

31 Oct

Yesterday James and I went to the Google Halloween party. There were decorations everywhere and even the t-rex had been mummified.
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The main party was at GARfield park and a lot more elaborate than the Amazon Halloween party we went to last year. This one was Alice in Wonderland themed.
IMG_20141030_163821It’s been awhile since I read Alice in Wonderland so I’m sure I didn’t get all the references. Were there mushrooms? I think I vaguely remember mushrooms, though maybe not in bouncy house form …
IMG_20141030_173743Though I definitely remember giant (and tiny) Alice.
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And Eat me!
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Drink Me!

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There was also a game of croquet going, a white rabbit petting zoo, sumo wrestling (OK I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the book) and another oversized costume duel thingy with big jousting sticks.

We met up with some of James’ coworkers and James and Sundeep did battle. The victor was the person whose head didn’t fall off (OHHH I just got it! Off with their heads!). They had some crowd-pleasing fights, mainly due to their tendency to double KO.

IMG_20141030_162803I don’t know why James is celebrating so hard – they both lost!
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There was plenty to eat and drink. Snacks everywhere, lots of (free) food trucks and of course plenty of booze. Here is James double-fisting it.
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You could also get your face painted, and James and I both went for creepy Cheshire cat mouths.
IMG_20141030_172806Good thing we took a photo before we ate (I think this photo was actually taken while we were in the queue for some Roli Roti roast chicken) because after wiping his mouth James smeared his face makeup everywhere. =(

The party was short and sweet – from 3 until 6 and there was just enough to keep us busy the whole time. Of course we were both stuffed at the end of it – and I was a bit tipsy because we each had a green vodka drink plus the little blue bottles, which James didn’t like so he made me drink his.

It was really fun, and it was nice getting to meet some of James’ coworkers. I’m looking forward to the Christmas party (maybe I’ll actually dress up for that since we’ll have all our stuff back – which I’m actually looking forward to way more!)

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