Saturday, May 31, 2008

And We're Rolling. . .

Because I have no shame, I am sharing this story and these photos with you.  

My friend Shagun and I went on a hike today at Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, CA.  Actually, "hike" is probably not the most accurate term to describe what we did.

First of all, it was a pretty cold day in the Bay Area.  It was my hope that by leaving the City and heading over to Berkeley we might catch a break and see some sunshine.  No such luck.  

So in order to prepare for the ever shifting micro climates of the Bay Area, I was ready for whatever weather conditions we might come up against.  I had on a pair of shorts underneath my track pants, a moisture wicking shirt, a fleece pullover, a North Face jacket and in my backpack an additional scarf and long sleeve t-shirt.  Needless to say, I may have over dressed and over packed.  

Here's how I know this is true.  I was really excited when we eventually found the location of where we were supposed to start our hike and there was a public restroom right there.  I immediately said I better go to the bathroom before we start out.  After using the restroom we headed off to where we thought the trail began.  As we were walking I thought to myself, " feels like my pants are falling down, but they're totally not."  It was then that it occurred to me that I had shorts on underneath my pants and that I had forgotten to button them back up after the restroom and they WERE falling down!  I started to laugh and said to Shagun, "Um ya, the shorts I have on under my pants are falling down and I need to fix that."   She just shook her head at me and I'm pretty sure she was thinking "You idiot!"

After I got my shorts taken care of we were off to the trail.  The only problem was we could not figure out where the trail started.  We even had a map that was provided by the East Bay Regional Park District of the trails and still couldn't figure it out.  After several minutes of looking at the map we hedged out bets and decided to start walking in the direction we had seen other people headed earlier.  We eventually found the trail marker and off we went.

Now seriously, God help us if we ever got lost.  I already told you we couldn't read the map.  Shagun is not fond of bugs and would scream every time we came across a banana slug or heard a creaking in the brush.  I don't like to get dirty which is ironic because I am always the one who ends up falling down somewhere on the trail.  And we were the only two people there who had backpacks so full of food, clothing and cameras that it looked like we planned to be out there for weeks.  We are not the model hikers.

We eventually found Lake Anza where we stopped to eat our lunch.  It was here that every dog that had been brought to the park that day and was soaked from the dirty lake water decided it would be best to come and shake off next to us and beg for food.  Good times.  I do believe the sign said all animals must be kept on a leash.  So much for that rule.

At the end of our hike we arrived at the Brazil Building which is a house at the top of a large grassy hill that can be used for events such as a wedding.  There were some children taking turns rolling down the hill.  I decided that looked like fun.  And with Shagun now taking on the roll of documentarian, I began my ascent to the top of the hill.

I had good form as I began to roll.  I kept my arms tucked and my head down.  About halfway to the bottom I realized I was getting really dizzy and was starting to feel sick.  As a kid, I always enjoyed being dizzy.  As an adult, not so much.  I was able to slow myself down to a full stop.  As evidenced in the final picture below, I had to sit for a while before I felt good enough to stand up and walk!

The Song Of The Day - Pump It by The Black Eyed Peas

I'm Reading Between The Lines. . .

OK, so I have already blogged about how hard it is to find parking in San Francisco.  Today I saw my new favorite sign and I had to share it with you!

This afternoon I was in the Mission District picking up a friend.  We had planned to go on a hiking expedition.  My friend asked if we could stop at the local grocery store so she could pick up some food for our hike. 

My friend directed me to the Bi-Rite which was just around the corner.  Since there was no parking we decided that I would wait in the car while she ran in and picked up the food.  

My car was blocking the driveway of an apartment building.  I kept the car idling with the hazard lights on in case I needed to move.  As I was sitting there I looked out the window and saw the funniest sign ever posted on the garage door I was parked in front of.

Unfortunately, I don't think the last line on the sign is legible so I will type it here for you.  It says, "You Will Also Seriously Piss Off The B*tch Who Pays Good Money For This Garage And Nobody Wants That."

Thank God my friend finished up in the store before the "B*tch" got pissed off and had to come out and yell at me for blocking her driveway.

The Song Of The Day - Take Control by Amerie

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cause I'm A Survivor. . .

Did you know that May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month?

Today I had the privilege of attending the final event in a month long celebration of diversity at my office.  This Speaker Event held in our conference center featured a South Asian Dance performance of Bollywood and Bhangra dance styles, a speech by our CFO, and special guest speaker Yul Kwon, the winner of the reality television show Survivor, Cook Islands.

I love that I work for a Company that celebrates diversity.  It was so great to see two of my peers perform a dance routine in traditional Indian clothing as the room cheered them on.

I also enjoyed Yul's speech that shared his own personal journey of not having an Asian role model on television while growing up.  He shared how his controversial season of Survivor was cast with the intention of putting racial stereotypes on the show.  He also talked about a study of how Asian Americans hit a glass ceiling when climbing the corporate ladder.  This is often a result of the cultural differences in how they are raised.  

In the American corporate world, in order to move ahead you must have a clear point of view and ensure that your point is heard in group meetings.  Yul explained that in the Asian community they are taught to be respectful of their superiors.  They are also taught to never look a superior in the eye out of respect and also to wait until everyone else has spoken before they speak.  In times of stress, how a person reacts in a situation can be directly linked to their cultural upbringing.  So what the studies have shown is that despite being equally qualified for senior management positions in the American corporate world, the Asian Americans can be passed over because the perception is that they are too quiet or not confident and aggressive enough to be promoted.

I think Yul gave a great speech.  I think he is really accomplishing what he set out to do, to be a positive role model in the Asian American community.

After Yul's speech there was time for a few questions.  What happened next was very funny.  Yul had just finished his motivational speech about not being afraid to take risks, always share your opinions in the work place and stand tall.  Two people raised their hands to ask a question:  1.  the white acting president of one of our brands, and 2.  a twenty something Asian employee.  As Yul motioned for the young Asian employee to ask his question, the employee quietly looked down and said "Oh no, he can go first" pointing to the acting president.  Without skipping a beat he said, "No, you speak."  The whole room burst out laughing as we had all just witnessed what Yul had described in the study about Asian Americans in the corporate workplace.

The Song Of The Day - Pocketful Of Sunshine by Natasha Bedingfield

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hold On For One More Day. . .

I think one of the requirements for being a Muni driver in San Francisco is to be heavy footed when accelerating and braking.  There are lots of signs posted inside the Muni buses, but the most important one is shown here.  "Please Hold On Sudden Stops Are Sometimes Necessary," and they are not kidding!

I ride the 30x bus every morning to work.  The 30x bus is what is called an "express" bus.  This means it has limited stops and does not follow the same route as the regular 30 line.  The 30x is primarily ridden by young business people traveling from the Marina District to the Financial District.  Most riders are dressed in fancy suits or business casual.  I feel I am usually the one oddball wearing a baseball cap, or bright green Converse, or even once on Halloween a wig.  The wig was a critical fashion faux pas in Marina etiquette.  Please read the article about Marina people I have attached as a link here to understand more about the stigma of being a Marina resident.

So the stop where I get on the 30x is the last stop in the residential area before the bus heads downtown.  By the time the 30x reaches my stop the bus is usually full and most often will pass by those of us waiting on the corner without stopping.  Sometimes up to three or four full buses will pass by before one stops.  The problem is that even if the bus does stop, the chance of getting on is slim to none because the buses are so full.  

So 30x riders have developed their own unspoken set of rules that does not apply in any other part of the city.  Because they are all young upwardly mobile business people (ex- fraternity/sorority members) they do not have to leave an empty seat space between each rider.  What I mean by that is there is little to no fear that a homeless person will get on the bus and sit next to you causing your ride to work to be rather unpleasant.  In fact everyone on the 30x is very well groomed.  Because of the exemplary grooming habits of your fellow 30x riders we are willing to pack as many people on the bus as possible.  Despite numerous signs that say not to stand beyond the yellow line or in the stairwells,  we 30x riders will break all these rules while listening to our iPods, texting on our Blackberrys, holding our Venti non fat latte in one hand, and holding the hand rail with the other.  I also forgot to mention that each rider is also usually carrying at least one briefcase and a gym bag.  Yes, we are the fine, the few, the elite, we are the Marina residents.

So the drivers ability to slow the vehicle down becomes an issue for Marina residents as they try and balance on their high heals without falling over or spilling their Starbucks.  I actually think the drivers find it amusing to watch the passengers hold on for dear life as they slam on the brakes.  I, who am not the most coordinated person on the planet, just about did a face plant into another riders crotch when the driver brought the bus to a sudden stop.  Good times.

I had never ridden public transportation before moving to San Francisco and I think part of the reason I have adapted so well to it is that it kind of reminds me of a thrill ride at an amusement park.  You never know how you are going to get tossed around.  I think of my morning commute as more than just a commute, it's an adventure.  I have ridden the 30x with my face pressed against the front windshield of the bus while holding on to the fare box.  I have also ridden the 30x in the back stairwell clenching the rail hoping not to fall through the doors as we took a sharp turn.  

My all time favorite 30x moment was when an out of town tourist accidentally boarded the 30x instead of the regular 30 bus line.  The tourist and his wife followed the crowd and crammed themselves into the back stairwell of the bus.  As the bus pulled away from the corner and turned right, the tourists realized they were heading in the opposite direction from where they wanted to go.  The gentleman began to have a mild panic attack.  I was standing closest to the male tourist.  We were both leaning against the back door and I knew that if he freaked out and pushed on the door hard enough it might pop open while the bus was in motion.  I also knew it was going to be a good ten minutes before we reached the next stop.  I started talking to the man telling him where we were, where we were heading, and that when we reached the next stop enough people would get off of the bus that it wouldn't be so crowded.  His wife was telling him it would be ok too.  He calmed down enough to make it to the first stop, and just as I promised enough people got off for him to have more space to breathe.  They ended up riding the bus almost to the end of the line.  Another rider and myself told the tourists how close they were going to be to the destination they originally wanted to go to.  When he got off he thanked me for helping him on his first public transportation experience.

I am sure I will have many more stories to share in the future about the 30x.

The Song Of The Day - Time To Pretend by MGMT

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh I Wanna Dance With Somebody. . .

So I was watching the American Idol season finale last night when it became blatantly obvious that white people can't dance.   

On each elimination night throughout the competition the top twelve contestants perform a song together.  Keeping in mind this is a singing competition, I feel bad for these kids as they are taught remedial dance steps and expected to perform a routine as they try and sing together.  One word to describe this visual train wreck...awkward. 

The two stiffest members of the ensemble were definitely Brooke White and Amanda Overmyer.  They entered the competition to sing, not dance.  The producers of the show should really spare the viewing audience from having to watch these cheesy numbers.  Just let them sing.

So the American Idol finale got me thinking about how much I like to dance.  I have never claimed to be a good dancer; I have merely said I like to dance.  The problem is that when you tell someone that you like to dance they automatically think you have some sort of skill. 

In my mind, when I am busting a move, I am quite positive I have killed it and would totally win So You Think You Can Dance.  The reality is, I am just as awkward as the American Idol kids.

The one thing I have going for me is that if the music is right, I require very little encouragement to move to the center of the dance floor and break out my moves.  Also, once I get going I really don't need a dance partner.  I am perfectly content entertaining the crowd on my own.  I guess I should pay more attention.  Maybe the crowd wasn't cheering me on.  Maybe those were looks of horror.

Unfortunately, as evidenced in the recent photo displayed here; I too dance like a white person.  Apparently, I have some signature moves that my friends can imitate.  When I saw this recent set of photos it occurred to me that I was doing the same movement with my hand in every shot.  

Some people might be embarrassed by my mad skillz.  I have one friend who after she saw me start to dance she took one giant step backwards to try and discretely exit the dance floor.   This did not phase me at all.  I kept right on going!

So as the old adage goes...Dance like there is no one watching!

The Song Of The Day - The Time Is Now by Moloko

Saturday, May 17, 2008

There Is No Better Way To Say I Love You. . .

I love Apple.  My love affair with Apple began in college.  The Journalism Department was the only department on campus to have Macs in their computer labs.  At home I had an IBM compatible Hewlett Packard.  I was what you would call "Compu-dexterous," which means I could work on either IBM or Mac.  

I was, and still am not what I would consider computer savvy.  However, there was something about Macs that I just understood.  If you wanted to cut and paste something, just click on the scissor icon and then click on the bottle of paste.  That made sense to me.  Pictures.  I understood pictures.   I understood pictures a lot more than that "Word Perfect" application on my IBM compatible computer at home.  

The "Word Perfect" application required about fifteen discs to load onto your computer, but only one key stroke to permanently alter a document you were working on.  I remember many late nights sitting at the computer on the verge of tears as I neared the end of an assignment only to watch the entire document shift margins or worse yet disappear completely.

In my junior year of college I took my required computer class.  In what some would consider divine intervention I was enrolled for this class the same semester that the Northridge earthquake hit.  All the Engineering Department's computer labs were in buildings that were unable to be occupied, so we had computer class without computers.  How awesome is that?
On a side note this was also the same semester I was enrolled in Bio Lab, again without access to the Lab!  Go me!

So computer class at college was all about MS DOS.  CD\ get the picture, totally irrelevant to today's world.  I remember the teacher telling the class about a rumored application coming out the following year from Microsoft called "Windows."  So while the rest of the class was learning all about DOS, I was counting down the minutes till my next Journalism class when I could get back on a Mac.

In my adult life I have owned an Apple iBook, an Apple PowerBook, two iPods, and an iPhone.  I also encouraged my parents to get an Apple Macbook when they recently purchased a new computer.  My favorite Apple product is iTunes, which revolutionized my music buying, listening, and mixing habits.

So here is the reason I am telling this story.  I purchased my iPhone at the end of November last year.  From the get go I loved all the features on the iPhone but questioned its battery life.  I also had concerns about its ability to play music and web browse at the same time without restarting.  I went into the Apple Store and explained my concerns to a Genius Bar representative.  He seemed to have heard these concerns before and told me to go home and try "restoring" the iPhone.  I took his recommendations and it seemed to help my web browsing issue.  I still had doubts about the battery life and I had also noticed that sometimes the phone would get really hot.  It was almost like it was thinking too hard or something.

On Friday, I decided to go back to the Genius Bar for a follow up visit.  This was a full five months after my first diagnosis.  I arrived at the Apple Store and signed up on the concierge computer for the next available appointment which was in about ten minutes.  I had barely sat down on the bench to wait my turn when an Apple employee carrying a lap top asked my name.  I gave him my name and he confirmed I was on the waiting list.  He asked me to describe my problem.  I rattled off all my concerns as he clicked and typed away.  All the while he was nodding his head and giving me the occasional "yes" and "oh" and "hmmm."  He said thank you very much, a Genius will be with you shortly.

They called my name and I stepped up to the bar.  The Genius said "I hear you are having problems with your iPhone, tell me what's going on."   I said, "Well I don't know that they are problems, it might be normal I just need you to tell me that is ok or not ok."  I re-explained all my concerns.  After I finished telling him everything he said he wanted to do a diagnostic on the phone.  He hooked the phone up to a lap top and told me to type in my password and we would wait and see what the diagnostic would show.  After a few minutes he said "Hmmm, the diagnostic doesn't seem to have run.  Looks like you are getting a new phone."  "What?" I said. He had already stepped away and retrieved a new phone from a drawer.  As he cut open the box he said,  "I am going to take your word about the issues you are having and just give you a new phone."  Still in shock I replied, "OK.  Cool I guess."

That seems like pretty incredible customer service.  And that is just one more reason why I love Apple.

The Song Of The Day - Wow By Kylie Minogue

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Get Out Of My Dreams, Get Into My Car. . .

I was born and raised in Southern California.  Southern California is a car culture.  Having a car means having freedom.  It makes things accessible.  Your car defines who you are.  I found it hard to imagine what life would be like without a car.

Moving to San Francisco almost two years ago changed my whole reality.  I now had to worry about my car.  Would I be able to find parking near my apartment?  Would I be able to find parking if I met a friend for dinner?  Did I have enough cash to pay for the parking?  How long would it take me to find parking?  These were all questions I did not really have to worry about in Southern California.  Suddenly now having a car was becoming a burden.

In Southern California if you get lost driving you can pull off the street into a mall parking lot, a Target, or a gas station to figure out where you are.  In San Francisco there really is no where to pull off; you just have to keep going.

Before moving I had never depended on public transportation.  Now I had to figure out which bus would get me the closest to my destination.  Now I had to add travel time that was non existent before.  Now I had to remember my bus pass.  Now I had to figure out how to balance standing up on a moving vehicle.

I think the biggest adjustment to moving to the city was breaking the dependency on my car.  I had to figure out a new routine for life.  I could no longer just hop in the car without first thinking about the ramifications of that choice.  If I drove to a friends house for the day and arrived back in the city after 9 pm; it might take me up to an hour and a half to find a parking space.  Sometimes I think maybe I don't want to go to the event because I don't want to deal with the parking.  

I can say I am now comfortable with my new life, but it took a good year to get to that place.  I find it interesting that I think about things very different.  In Southern California, if there was a measure on the ballot to raise a tax or have a bond for public transportation I would always vote "no."   Why should I give my money for something I don't use?  In this past election I found myself becoming very passionate about voting yes on anything that would improve public transportation.  What a difference!

I also look at the rising cost of gas.  We have broken the four dollar mark.  I think about how I can travel all over the city with my bus pass for just $45 dollars a month.  If I was still living in Southern California I don't think I would have been able to maintain the lifestyle I was living with the price of gas today.  Back then I drove on average 336 miles a week.  At the time I was filling my gas tank twice a week.  That is an incredible expense to incur.  Now, living in the city, I haven't filled up my gas tank in two months!  How crazy is that?

The Song Of The Day:  Walk Like An Egyptian by The Puppini Sisters

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me. . .

Today was a beautiful day in the city.  It was hot and crystal clear.  This lead to an incredible sunset.  I just had to share this image of the sun setting on the Golden Gate Bridge.  


The Song Of The Day:  Sunlight by DJ Sammy

Push Push Back Up On It...

When Muni attacks!  Tonight I had the thrilling experience of riding the 1 California home.  As most people know, San Francisco is famous for historic bridges, fog, beautiful views, and steep hills.  

The 1 California travels from the Financial District on the Bay all the way out to Lincoln Park which backs up to the Pacific Ocean.  As the Bus travels along Sacramento Street it slowly climbs a steep hill as it passes the Transamerica Pyramid, China Town and Grace Cathedral.  

If you have ever driven on a steep hill and had to stop at a stop light you know that unnerving feeling when the car starts to roll backwards as you take your foot off the brake and press down on the accelerator.  Often times this results in the driver aggressively pressing down on the accelerator to prevent rolling into the car behind them.  This then causes the driver's car to peel out.

So now imagine what it feels like when you are the passenger on a massive municipal city bus.  I for one always get a little nervous when the bus has to stop on the way up a steep hill.  You can call it my lack of faith in the bus' braking system.  

Here is the other part of my concern, since most of San Francisco's buses are powered by the electrical wires that criss cross above the city streets, what happens when the bus inadvertently gets disconnected from the wires?  From my experience the bus almost immediately comes to a stop, the lights on the bus go out, and the driver moves very quickly to get the rods reconnected.  

Just how long could the bus continue moving if the driver did not reconnect to the wires.   For example, if Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves had to keep the bus going above 30 miles an hour or a bomb will go off, how long do I have to live if that bus broke free from the wires?  It could happen...right?

Anyway, I digress.  So here I am on the 1 California at the highest part of a steep hill when the bus became separated from the wires.  We lurched backwards as the driver quickly engaged the brakes.  He then exited the bus to try and reconnect the rods to the wires.  He was clearly having difficulty as he kept pulling and slamming the rods and ropes against the roof of the bus.  This caused the whole bus to shake.

It was at this point that all of us passengers realized that the rods had become stuck in a tree on the side of the street.  A small crowd of tourists had formed behind the bus to witness the driver free his vehicle from the mighty tree.  The narrow street we were on prevented other cars from passing our bus and they had to back up and find another way to their destination.  

Then matters became worse when the next bus on the line pulled up behind us.  Something would have to be done soon or we were going to cause major city gridlock.  The driver from the other bus got out to try and help.  Things were beginning to look grim.  

There was only one thing to do...hope the bus had some electric juice left running through its wires and GUN IT!  

The driver slammed down on the accelerator propelling the bus forward.  The rods, which were still caught in the tree, ripped an entire limb down.  The limb narrowly missed falling onto one of the tourists who has stopped to observe our turmoil. 

We were free.  We were safe.  We were on our way home.

The tree was not so lucky.

This is just another example of when Muni attacks!

*note - the photo is a representation of the fallen limb and not the actual limb from this story.

The Song Of The Day:  Wipe All My Tears Away by Trey Lorenz

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm Traveling Down This Road Watching The Signs As I Go...

I thought I would share with you a sign that is displayed in my local laundry mat.  The thing I love about this sign is that is poses more questions than it clarifies.  

1.  How exactly does a machine in a laundry mat that does not have any employees on site know if the person getting the change is actually going to use that change for laundry?
2.  When exactly is the 5% service charge deducted?  Because, I put in a dollar and got four quarters.  Was I supposed to give like five cents back?  And if I was, where was I supposed to put it?  Or who should I be giving it to?  Honestly, at this point I am just an honest customer.
3.  Since there is no employee present, if I am legitimately using the change machine for services rendered in the laundry mat and I see someone else who clearly is not, should I make a citizens arrest and ask the offender for 5%.

If you know the answers to any of these questions please let me know.

The Song Of The Day - Leavin' (JFK MSTRKRFT Remix) by Jesse McCartney

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard...

OK, so this picture really has nothing to do with my milkshake or the boys in the yard but I thought it was kinda cool anyway.  I promise I will get back to the milkshake in a minute, in the meantime lets talk about a few things.  

First off, if you don't already know, I live in a six story apartment building.  The good news is that I am on the top floor.  The bad news is people like to go on the roof. Normally this wouldn't bother me, but last night the post college 20 and 30 year old ex fraternity/sorority members who live in the Marina decided to RUN around on the roof. Again, not the worst thing in the world, but add in the fact that I was trying to sleep and San Francisco is known for having earthquakes...well suffice it to say it sounded like the building was coming down.  Good times.  At least they ended the midnight track meet on the roof about thirty minutes later.

So today a few of us headed up to the Legion of Honor to view the Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit.  That is where the lovely Medusa looking glass sculpture shown above was on display.  As my partners in crime pointed out, the piece looks like it would fit right in at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

After the museum we made our way across the city for brunch at Aperto.  In case you were wondering, this is not when I am going to talk about my milkshake.

Back to Aperto.  Have you ever been at a restaurant with family or friends and when the food arrives everyone else's food looks way better than what you ordered?   Ya that's what happened today.  My friend and I decided to order French Toast and Banana Walnut Pancakes to share.  The other members of our group wanted savory so they got an omelet and a pasta dish.  Seriously this beautiful omelet shows up garnished with fruit, foccocia bread, and potatoes.  The pasta dish was a full bowl.  And then the the waitress brought my plate...two small pancakes with this withered sad looking banana laying on top.  There was more plate than food.  Then she brought the French Toast to my friend.  It contained two small slices of French Toast cut into four pieces.  Not impressive at all.   

I tried not to show my disappointment in my meal choice as I didn't want to spoil the brunch for my friends.  I found myself continually trying to sneak a peak at my friends amazing omelet extravaganza without being obvious.  It was at that point that I realized my food sharing partner with her French Toast was also eyeing the omelet.  I could no longer hold back my disappointment.  "Do you feel we got jipped on this one?" I asked.  "Yeah!" she said.  I felt validated that we both made the wrong meal choice.  This lead our brunch mate to offer us some of her omelet.  I declined and decided to make sure that dinner would be amazing!  

And now for the milkshake...

So, have you been to Carls Jr. lately?  They have a new milkshake/malt made with Captain Crunch.  Why I thought this would be a tasty treat I have no clue.  I ordered up my Captain Crunch milkshake eagerly anticipating the pure joy and satisfaction I would get from this fine new delicacy.  It only took one sip to decide...hmmm...I don't really like soggy Captain Crunch bits swirled into ice cream.  My new found dislike of Captain Crunch milkshake did not stop me from finishing it.  In fact as I was walking down the street in a semi sugar comatose state a homeless man yelled "Hey, where's my milkshake?"  I almost yelled back, "Trust me it's not worth it."

On that note, I must say bye for now.

The Song Of The Day:  I Kissed A Girl by Katy Perry