News from April 2005

April Fool's Day

Occurred April 01, 2005 (Permalink)

Today: I was relieved of Lab Coordinator duties at work. Yay! I typed "C:\WINDOWS\> " on Hanna's terminal and let her wonder how it came to be that DOS was installed on the machine. Hee hee!

Steph and I Fly to Oakland

Occurred April 07, 2005 (Permalink)

The second half of spring break began today, when I picked up bags, dove out of work, went to airport mid-afternoon and flew south to Oakland to meet Steph. She was attending a conference of academic advisors in Emeryville on Friday and Saturday, and we intended to spend the rest of the weekend goofing off in the East Bay and San Francisco. Greg picked us up from the airport and drove us to grandma's house, whereupon grandma treated the four of us to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. There are, of course, trip pictures; specific sections are linked from stories as is customary.

Mexicali Rose and Chabot Observatory

Occurred April 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Grandma's car was parked at Fruitvale BART. Steph was in Emeryville. For those not in the know, this meant that I had to drive north on I-880 and I-80 in the middle of Friday rush hour. I can now say that I am master of the multiple lane-change challenge, having gotten myself across five lanes of 15mph traffic on I-80 in a quarter of a mile! So I grab Steph from outside of her conference, and we headed off to the Mexicali Rose, a restaurant that I'd gone past many many times, yet never ate in. We got a booth and ordered what turned out to be enormous plates of food! The dishes were pretty much standard fare for Mexican combo-plates and quite good, though not as good as a night out at Casa de Pico in San Diego.

After dinner, I drove Steph up in to the hills so that she could see what the Bay Area looked like from up high in the middle of the night. We went eastward along Redwood Road deeper and deeper into the hills until I finally got fed up and drove back out. We turned onto Skyline, saw a really lovely skyline, and then I went up to Chabot Observatory. There wasn't anything going on up there that night (i twas extremely foggy) , so we just parked and chatted about life and the way things were heading. I confess that I enjoyed the chance to have a direct conversation with Steph, for the first time in months. Anyhow, I then took Skyline all the way back to Grandma's, and we went to bed.

Old Friends: Ti Couz and Ghirardelli

Occurred April 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Friday morning I woke up at the crack of dawn, drove a somewhat nervous Steph to her conference, and then went back to grandma's for a bit more sleep. That didn't quite work, so I called Steven and Woodley and told them to meet me at Ti Couz at 13:00 for crepes. This almost worked, except that Woodley didn't get out of class until 13:00, so Steven and I had crepes and told W to meet us at Ghirardelli Square for chocolate at 14:30. I had two crepes: ham/cheese, and sausage/mushroom. Very tasty! And my usual Cable Car at Ghirardelli. The Sharper Image then appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to suck the three of us in for over an hour. We found a really cool magnetic construction toy that we used to construct models of chemical lattice structures and then odd looking buildings. Steven announced that he had to get home urgently, so we split up and I went off to grab Steph...

A Packed Saturday in the East Bay

Occurred April 09, 2005 (Permalink)

Saturday progressed much differently from Friday. I again dropped Steph off at her conference in the morning...only this time I opted against going home and instead went to Borders to peruse books. I got Steph a picture book to remember San Francisco, and myself a book about body language and Linux Device Drivers, third edition. After exiting the bookstore, I tried out shopping in the adjoining mall and felt completely awkward. Queer Eye needs to help me out. Though I did get to see and touch a 30" display at the Apple Store in Emeryville.

Luckily, I found out at the last minute that Steph's conference only went until noon on Saturday, which meant that we had the entire half-day for exploration! First I took her to my Uncle's condo and played a game of chicken with my memory: I recalled that he lives on the 20th floor, but I was off by one on the number. Good thing I chickened out and asked the bellman to look up my uncle's address. My uncle whisked us off to Chez Panisse, where we ordered ourselves a load of tasty treats. As is customary, I had a bottle of grape juice--very sweet and very good!

We bade my uncle goodbye and headed off on our own into the Oakland hills. I had two goals in mind: the first was to show off the vistas of San Francisco to Steph so that she could get some pictures; the second was to try to find the old Broadway tunnel (offsite) high in the hills above SR24. The first few pictures (a4090072 - 87) of that album were taken from various points along Old Tunnel Road in Oakland. Unfortunately, we completely failed to find the entrance to the old tunnel, so I went to Tunnel Road on the other side of the hill. We found a nice trailhead for hiking, but the road was fenced off by an ominous looking sign. Either we were totally incompetent at searching or the state transportation department doesn't want us to find this tunnel. Thus defeated, we followed the trails and wound up with pictures (a4090088 - 98).

Next we had dinner with my family at King Wah in downtown Oakland. Food there was good as usual, though it's a rarity that they fail to impress me. Next we retired back to grandma's house, whereupon Greg joined us for dessert. Steph and I went to bed after everybody left.

The West Side of San Francisco

Occurred April 10, 2005 (Permalink)

On Sunday morning, Steph and I grabbed Greg and we drove off towards the west half of San Francisco. Back when Steph visited in December 2003, we had made sure to do all the touristy things--Union Square, the Ferry Building and Embarcadero buildings, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, Ghirardelli, etc. We also witnessed the Big San Francisco Blackout of the year and took in Handel's Messiah despite the bad weather and eerie lack of electricity in large parts of the city. But that was 2003.

This time, I set out with vastly different ambitions. Steph had asked to see bridges because she hadn't seen much of any the last time she was in SF, and thus I got the idea in my head that we should tour the _west_ half of town. We started off by parking Greg's car at the Daly City BART station on the grounds that he was ultimately heading south and Steph and I were heading back to Grandma's. From there, we headed north towards Golden Gate Park, and parked at Stow Lake. For the uninitiated, Stow Lake is a big murky lake in the middle of the Park; it has a tree-covered island-hill in the middle, and one can rent paddle-boats to take out on the lake. We went halfway around the lake, only to discover... the paddle boating was out of service due to "low water levels". Strange--I thought that most of California had been blasted by a classic Northwestern winter. Certainly it should be _Portland_, not SF that would have low water levels in the lakes. Oh well. The three of us settled for crossing a bridge to the hill and I snapped tons of pictures of turtles, the SF skyline, St. Ignatius Church, and more. We also stumbled across a big inflatable ball room in the Park, so I took some pictures of San Franciscans enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

We went to Bill's Place for lunch after that. My mother used to take me there when I was younger; back then, the food and service were better. I hadn't been there since August of 2003, and I think the original owner must have sold the place to new management some years ago. It looks the same, but it feels somehow off. Maybe this is just a sign that I've gotten to the phase of my life where the old things no longer fit and the only thing to do is to leave them behind in the search for new experiences.

The next place we went was the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across the bridge and I showed her some spectacular views of the Berkeley Hills, San Francisco, Alcatraz, and out to sea in the direction of the Farallon Islands. At no time did I have a camera; please ask Steph for her pictures. Hopefully she'll get them developed some day. My LA trip pictures are in there somewhere.

By this time, it was nearly 17:30, and my instincts (read: sun sensors) told me that it would be an inordinately good idea to move things along some. We were driving southwesterly along Lincoln Drive past a lot of really expensive houses when the thought occurred to me that Steph might like to see the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Or maybe that it would be a high-up place to try to see the sunset. The result is this set of pictures that were taken from the parking lot. (The Legion itself was closed for the day.) There's actually not a whole lot that can be photographed outside the Legion, as there are large pine(?) trees surrounding the parking lot which pretty much blot out the good city panoramas. However, I _did_ get some good sunset pictures (a4100118, 19, 21). For once in my life a silhouette picture came out the way I intended it to come out.

Finally, we get to the good stuff! Fearing that the sun would set before I got more than three good pictures, we headed even further westward to the customary make-out/sunset-watching place: the parking lot above Sutro Baths. Back in the first half of the twentieth century, Sutro Baths functioned as a public swimming pool and bath house in the Pacific Coast part of San Francisco. It was fed entirely by seawater and had featured three gigantic pools, one of which was heated. The old place was quite close to Playland At the Beach, an olden-day imitation of Coney Island and a predecessor of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Anyhow, both Playland and Sutro are gone, the former plowed under by condo developers in the 1980s and the latter burned to the ground in 1967.

Anyhow, I digress. See the fabulous pictures that I took! We actually had a fair amount of time to kill, so I took rather a lot of stylized photos of Greg and Steph. a4100129 was a late picture--ten seconds earlier, a small bird had been trying unsuccessfully to land on the larger bird for a free ride in the high winds! I also got a lot of good pictures of the sun as it was setting into the Pacific for the night. At first I thought the sun was going to get trapped by the intermittent high-level clouds, but they must not have gone too far out to sea, because the golden rays became stronger and more intense as the glowing orb came closer and closer to the ocean's surface. Finally, the sun set for the night and all that was left was an even facade of goldenlight across the sky. Quite spectacular. I need to get some more pictures of the Oregonian sunset some time. Perhaps from Mt. Tabor.

Finally, we crashed at an Italian restaurant on Geary somewhere west of Park Presidio for dinner. I seem to recall having calzones and pizza, Steph feeding a juke box, and us being silly with each other. When that was through, we bade good-bye to Greg and headed home.

We Go for a Walk and then Go Home

Occurred April 11, 2005 (Permalink)

On the final morning of my vacation, Grandma offered to treat us to lunch at a place in Alameda. I was waiting to decorate my hash browns when I realized that the bottle of ketchup at the table was no ordinary bottle--it had a quote from a celebrity on the side! This one read "Fixes burgers at warp speed" and was signed by William Shatner, so I took a couple of pictures (a4110004 - 5).

Grandma suggested that Steph and I kill the remaining hours by going for a walk around the neighborhood. I took Steph on a meandering route through the hills to a casting pond that my grandparents used to take me to when I was a little kid. Sadly, the experience didn't compare to what I remember--ten years ago, the ponds weren't full of silt and the stream full of disgusting looking water. (a4110007 - 12)

To counterbalance the disgustingness of the park, I took pictures of various flowers that were blooming along the streets that lead back to grandma's house. I got quite a few pictures of grandma's purple-flowered ice plants (a4110001, 2, 23-25, 41-42), a funny looking plant (a4110037), several street signs (a4110026, 40) and a lot of roses. We'll see how Portland looks in a month or so when (theoretically) the temperature rises enough so that the roses and flowers will start blooming all over the city. Perhaps I'll be sneezing so frequently that I won't notice them.

By that time, the pollen and the air pollution had conspired to give both of us a rather nasty case of allergies. Truthfully, I deem any amount of allergies to be nasty, but perhaps that's just me. Anyway, we walked back to grandma's house and I spent a few hours taking random pictures of Steph and objects in grandma's living room. I don't have much to say about this album other than that I finally captured the glass mouse on camera. There are also a lot of pictures of Stephanie.

Sadly, this marked the end of our long weekend together, as we piled into grandma's car and went to the airport after that. I nearly got cheated out of a _third_ goodbye because I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag. Stupid how you forget a computer and they take forever to re-examine everything you have and pat you down...but bring sharp wire cutters? They confiscate them and send you on your merry way. Sometimes I think that the only extra security gained by the TSA is in bureaucracy compliance. Until recently, one could bring fire-starting devices, yet nail files were forbidden! Anyway, after being released from airport security, I flew down the concourse to Steph's gate and gave her an actual, proper farewell.

Tibetan Dinner

Occurred April 15, 2005 (Permalink)

I went to a Tibetan restaurant tonight. The food wasn't especially different from Chinese. Aside from the yak food, I'm not sure I was particularly impressed. But the yak was tender and tasty; I'll give them that much.

Weekend in Bend

Occurred April 16, 2005 (Permalink)

On Thursday, Eliza let it slip that she and three of her friends were going to Bend to spend the weekend in a house that they had rented, and that any of us who wanted could go along. Since I was relatively free that weekend, I said that I'd love to see what Bend was and where it is. According to the big map that is pinned to the dining room wall, Bend is one of a triangle of cities smack in the middle of Oregon, and more importantly it's on the other side of the Cascades on the western edge of the Oregon desert. It seemed like the sort of thing that would be well worth the time.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I meet Eliza and her three friends Cheryl, Dory and Jonquil at an industrial warehouse-turned eatery called the J&M cafe in the industrial section of SE Portland. They have a rather strange way of serving coffee--there are three tall hat racks with mugs hanging off; one simply walks up, takes a mug, and fills it with the coffee of one's choice. They appeared to serve a fairly standard breakfast menu, and I think I had an omelette. I've probably had tastier egg foods elsewhere, but this place certainly had a curious atmosphere. And a neglected karaoke machine.

Around 9am, we decided to strike out for Bend. Luckily, I wasn't driving, because I really had no clue how to get to far out places. We sped south on I-5 towards and then through Salem, turned eastward on OR22, and began the long trek over the Cascade range. The land west of those mountains is pretty much the same as in Portland: green farmland. Soon we began to climb into the mountains and became surrounded by trees. Most of the forest in this area did not appear to have been clear-cut, fortunately. It is good that Oregon at least try to stay green...though a fair amount of the state depends on the welfare of the logging business. <sigh>

As the mountains fell away, a rustic California-esque landscape replaced it. There were wide open arid fields, cattle farms, strange sculptures by the side of the road, and funny looking irrigation systems to water the expansive fields. The ground featured more brown hues and dry brush than I'd seen since the last time I drove through the Central Valley in August 2003. Soon we got to Bend, which is a strange amalgamation of Southern California style ranch house tracts and big box stores, and middle-of-nowhere redneckness. The five of us turned southwards to our ultimate destination: Sunriver.

Sunriver is a resort town about 20 miles south of Bend on SR197. We had hoped that it would be really close to the mountains, which would enable us to get in some quick but challenging hikes on the mountain before the weekend ended. Were we ever wrong! It is true that it was a town created solely for the benefit of those who lived there, but that's all it was! Lots of cabins. We noticed a mid-sized shopping center at the edge of Sunriver, and proceeded to check out the house that Cheryl had rented for the rest of us. (Obviously we all went Dutch for those two days, but Cheryl was the master planner on this trip.

The house itelf was nothing to sneeze at. It was for sale at the whopping asking price of 360k(!), though the house itself seemed to be in relatively good shape, system-wise. Anyway, the five of us mostly played Trivial Pursuit all afternoon--apparently the ladies were in more of a mood to sit around and relax instead of going hiking. Not that I mind spending a leisurely weekend hanging out with four girls...

As the hour grew later and the sun went down, we abandoned the Trivial Pursuit game (read: we sucked and nobody could win) and turned our attention to warming up the hottub and grilling dinner. I seem to recall that we ended up having steaks, salad, and a fair amount of wine for dinner. Thus red-faced, we dove into the hot tub outside, defying the 45 degree weather outside. We stayed in the tub for quite a long time too, enjoying more drinks, chattering about places we've been, and musing about places where we could go hiking or camping this summer. Perhaps there is a camping/backpacking trip in store for next month. We'll see; I'm rather busy right now.

Shortly before midnight, I proposed a crazy idea to Cheryl and Eliza--let's get out of the tub, put on some warmer clothes, and go tromping around the woods in the dark. To my wild amazement, she _and_ Eliza agreed to my crazy plan, and off we went. It turned out that there was a frat initiation party in progress down the street, and the three of us decided to crash it, despite the fact that none of us looked to be anywhere close to fraternity/sorority people. There was a totally smashed guy stumbling around outside looking for something to kiss; he came towards me and I redirected him towards a nearby sapling. Inside, the girls went for the refridgerator...and some guy walks up to us. Him: "You're not with <inaudible> frat, are you?" The girls: "Uh...no." Him: "Well, this is an invitation-only initiate party, and I'll have to ask you to leave." Us: "Err...ok." Yes, that's right--I took two girls to a frat party and got kicked out! And I'm not even in college any more! Hah!

The following morning, it snowed. This to us seemed to be perfect weather for hiking, so we took off on OR242 into the mountains. As we blew by a sign clearly stating "Road closed in 9 miles", I asked if we shouldn't just find some other road, and Eliza snorted "Aaaah, it's open anyway!" Well, she was dead wrong--closed means closed. Dave later remarked that had he been along with us, he probably could have unlocked the road gate for us. Anyway, we detoured to Detroit Lake and attempted to find the remains of the former city of Detroit that has been submerged since the early 1950s. The water level was, alas, too high. But we still wandered along the lake; the ladies pointed out a particular grove of trees on the other side of the lake that was favored with the only swath of clear sunlight in the entire sky that day. Regrettably, I didn't bring my camera; it was a really weird sight to see.

By that time, it was getting rather late on Sunday afternoon, so we drove back to Portland and I went home. I had fun, and it's phenomenally inexpensive to go to the resort towns around Bend when it's not winter or summer. Woo!

Portland Bridge Walk

Occurred April 21, 2005 (Permalink)

Tom of Meet in Portland fame organized a lengthly trip aross all the close-in bridges across the Willamette and up and down both sides of Tom McCall waterfront and the Eastbank Esplanade. Weather and history better than the first MiPL bridge walk. I didn't know that the Broadway Bridge is reddish because it was designed by Joseph Strauss (chief architect of the Golden Gate) and painted to be the same color as the Golden Gate.)

Lyrids Meteor Shower

Occurred April 22, 2005 (Permalink)

...which blew, because it was cloudy and the full moon washed out the sky. Time to find somewhere else to go where there are no clouds. California!

After Earth Day

Occurred April 23, 2005 (Permalink)

I called Lara this afternoon, wondering if there was anything going on across the river. She replied that indeed there was plenty of stuff to do, so I drove on over. I borrowed her husband's (offsite) bike and we biked over to an Earth Day celebration in progress at Sunnyside Park (near 33rd and Belmont). It was the first time that I'd ridden a bike in several years; fortunately, I wasn't so clumsy as to faceplant on the sidewalk. Though I was tempted to several times. We went on a crazy meandering twisty path through SE, avoiding the major boulevards and cris-crossing a whole lot of unfamiliar streets tucked away in places you'd never find in a car.

So there we were, at the Earth Day celebration. Earth indeed. As is typical of Portland weather this year, it's only been raining on the weekends. The weekdays are bright and sunny...until Friday, when the clouds come back and the rains start. This made the grassy field where the festival was held quite muddy--it got all over the grass, the booths, shoes, pavement, and girls' dresses. There were quite a few muddy 90s-hippies hanging around, listening to the music and having a good time. As expected, I didn't really fit into this crowd, as I lacked the mud and water stained floral print clothing, corderoy pants and beanie that sort of epitomizes the Portland Hippie. Frankly, I'm a lot closer to the Portland Geek--dark framed glasses, single-color shirt, etc. All I lack are jeans, some non-preppy red shoes, and longish hair. Not into those three.

While I've been taking in the scene and reflecting on my clothes, Lara's been looking for her friend and failing miserably. We head off to some Cuban joint called Salvador Molly's (offsite), where happy hour had just started, and one is encouraged to throw discarded peanut shells on the floor. We crunch our way in, order some fruity drinks and chicken soup, and proceed to chatter about random stuff. Lara's friend shows up and tells us there's a really cool act to see, so we pay and go back to the festival.

The rain is making me wet. There is a troup performing some sort of faux martial art-like dance inside Sunnyside School's gym, and so the three of us duck inside for a moment. A troupe of people are acting out a dance-like procedure, wherein one person fakes an attack against the other person. The bodies do not make contact, but from a distance it sure looks like they're really fighting each other. Very cool.

Dave calls. An old Jersey friend of his came in from Seattle; they have tickets to a bar-crawl service called the "Bar Fly Bus" (Barf-ly Bus?); could we give them a ride to a pub called "My Father's Place" on SE Grand? Before 6? It's now 5:50, so Lara and I run back to the bikes and hightail it back to her place at frighteningly high speeds. "Stop signs? Those are suggestions!" she insists. No wonder I've nearly hit so many bicyclists in SE. They're all clinically insane. Or invincible. Turns out that Dave meant 6:30, not 6, so we stop to have a drink with him, and call Eliza, who's just getting off work. The plan is to go see fire dancers at the Earth Day festival at 8:30 then go grilling at Eliza's. As one might guess, things go horribly askew from here. Oh well, I've been conditioning myself to be less type-A and not care so much. Eliza comes along for this next bit, by the way.

Well, not quite. We _do_ meet Ana and her beau Justin back at the muddy festival. There are girls in skimpy outfits and topless guys putting on the performance; if you don't care about either of those, they're also twirling big sticks with flaming pitch stuck on the ends. It made quite a hypnotizing spectacle, just standing there watching these brilliant orbs zooming around in crazy circles, dropping flaming bits onto the pavement, being shoved down dancers' throats, etc. One girl even made a headdress out of these sticks and proceeded to parade around with a big flaming helmet. Reminded me of that guy in the 1960's who set his hair on fire and then performed "Fire". But not so dangerous. I was quite impressed by the twirling fire, though I'm easily entertained when tired, slightly intoxicated and standing in the dark with friends.

While Justin and Ana went off to Gustav's for dinner, Lara, Eliza and I head off to find bars and possibly Dave. They found a brand new organic-only pub in close-in SE. Don't remember the name of it, but it had a surfboard for a logo. The bartender was friendly and going to nursing school at Portland Community College (PCC), so Lara had something to talk about. I surveyed the place and contributed random stories from my newly-ended college experience. After we were done there we split up and went home.

Grilling at Eliza's and Trivia Night

Occurred April 24, 2005 (Permalink)

Tonight, my hiking friends and I had another potluck dinner, this time at Eliza's place out by the river. I brought salmon for grilling; Ana, Justin and Lara brought marinaded tofu, and Eliza supplied vegetables for grilling as well as baby artichokes. Afterwards, the five of us headed off to the Basement Pub on SE 12th, where for the very first time I actually managed to make their Sunday trivia night. We didn't place, though we did get ~19 points. Maybe I'll go again, but it was rather smokey in there.

More Stories Posted at Last!

Occurred April 28, 2005 (Permalink)

I finally finished writing the journal entries about Steph's visit to Emeryville and most everything else that has transpired over the last month. Hoo-ray, I'm finally caught up!

Enjoy these sunset pictures that I took in San Francisco. Sunset from the Legion of Honor
Sunset from Sutro Baths

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