If technology doesn't seem like magic, it's probably obsolete

I'm finding less time to update my blog these days, but my flickr photostream is often updated.

Playing in my house right now...

At 00:00 GMT on Thursday I was listening to:

More of what I've been listening to

Latest pictures from my phone
More pictures from my phone

Tuesday August 31 2004 at 00:16 GMT

Whilst I was in California, as I said, my car was key. But what is a car without music? Soul-less! Here's a list of the tunes I mostly enjoyed whilst driving.

Bought in Fopp in London:

Donated via Grant (thanks, dude!): Bought in San Francisco, my first weekend: Bought in Tower Records in San Mateo: Borrowed from a friend:

Man, that was quite a lot of CDs to end up with! I wonder what my car is doing now...

Friday August 27 2004 at 20:55 GMT

So, I kind of skipped over a bit last week. On Monday, I headed over to our Dublin (California) office, then zoomed to the airport to collect Debbie who was on holiday. We headed into SF, and I sorted out my hotel for the night at the Edward II, down in the Marina district, on Debbie's recommendation (the first of quite a few great tips!). Normally I stay over by Union Square, but it was really nice to be in a different part of town, with a less touristy feel to it.

After dumping my stuff, Debbie took me to Pluto's, which was fantastic. Quality food, served up swiftly and cooked before your eyes. No messing with gazillion-item menus, just some solid food. Then we went to bowling (the one I had so much fun trying to find last time). My role was to ... relax and give the others encouragement, which I did pretty well, in between beers.

That ended at about 9.30 or so, which meant there was still plenty of time for having another beer or two. To cut a long story short, I started at a bar across the street, Marina Sports Bar, then went to another bar whose name I forget(!) before getting home in the wee hours.

Tuesday started, ahem, kind of late, and with the DPT giving me a parking ticket on my car. Woops. After another laundrette visit (running stuff), I lunched at Bechelli's (thanks once again, Debbie!) then set off for Yosemite.

The drive in took me just over five hours, seeing as I managed to hit some rush hour traffic. When I got to Yosemite Village I looked for a room, but there were none available, so I was told to try Curry Village and the canvas cabins there, which is exactly what I did (in fact, I think I secretly wanted to stay in a cabin instead of a regular room...). The huts were very basic, but for my requirements, perfect. I'm guessing maybe one or perhaps even two of you may struggle to believe that I was actually fully prepared for the eventuality, but there you go: I had plenty of bottled water, two torches (there was no light around the camp), my camping/computer repair Swiss Army tool and waterless soap; all set!

Sidenote: For many years, since my family first went to Florida back in the mid-80s(?) I've been reading books by Patrick F. McManus. His books are amusing, short stories about the outdoors; nothing too taxing or Pulitzer Prize winning, but fun. On Tuesday night, I lay in my canvas cabin and read a few short stories, which made me smile.

Now, in Yosemite, there are between 300-500 black bears. We are in their environment. EVERYWHERE there are big signs about being bear aware, and when I signed for my cabin there was a separate page I had to sign saying I fully understood the message, which was pretty simple: don't leave ANY food or cosmetics in your car overnight, but use the provided bear box. Without someone standing beside you all the time, that point really couldn't be any more re-enforced. Dutifully, I removed everything from my car, even down to chewing gum. Here is some good, practical, down-to-earth advice for avoiding bears.

For some reason, the family staying in the cabin across from me did not heed this warning and left fish and beer, both bear favourites, in their car. Naturally, when you tempt fate like that, it often takes the bait. A bear pitched up and tore their car apart... At 3.03am a ranger came round and told someone to immediately come with him. The impression I got was that the car was ruined. My sleep was not aided by the knowledge bears were actually a hundred metres from my canvas tent!

On Wednesday morning I filled my mighty Camelbak and headed off for some trekking, having been told that the trails weren't really ideal for running. The walk I had planned took much less time than I expected, when I caught up with Brent and Jess from Chino (close to LA). They were shooting for Half Dome, kind of the toughest hike in Yosemite, I think. My guidebook said the trip was a two day affair, but Brent and Jess had heard it was three hours to get there, so we went for it.

Without boasting too much, I'm certainly in the best physical shape I've been in for a long time, certainly in my adult life. Brent and Jess were not quite as up to it as I, and towards the end I was carrying all the bags in an effort for us to make it to the top. It took us 4.5 hours to get to a plateau before the base of the climb (another hour) and I didn't fancy attempting to descend in darkness, so we stopped there. Next time I'll hit the top, and I do reckon it is a decent one-day trek, not two days. Here's some more opinions on the subject. Wish I'd found this site before going...

My descent was a LOT of fun. The Camelbak was almost empty, and I'd eaten my food, so there was very little weight on my back. It felt like the time for running had come, so that's what I did, for as much as I could safely(ish) do. That was really a thrill, zooming down boulder strewn, loose dirt paths with heavy tree cover in late afternooon sunlight. In 90 minutes I was back at the car, which was good, as I wanted to get out the park before darkness, given the switchback nature of highway 120.

During my entire trek, my GPS watch was on, but it kept losing the satellites due to tree cover, so the picture is not very good at all, but here it is, for what it's worth.

The drive back took me just over four hours, after which I emptied my car into my room at the Chancellor Hotel, went to Johnny Foleys for a few pints of Guinness, then came back and packed.

If you plan to go to Yosemite, this site seems to be by people who are regulars and know the deal, with good feedback by others. Read it before you go and make the most of your time; it would have affected my time, definitely. Tomorrow I should have some photos posted of the incredible views.

One very cool thing to note was that a man by the name of John Muir was incredibly influential in having Yosemite recognised as a National Park, and, in fact, in huge amounts of other conservation. He was originally from Scotland, which made trekking around Yosemite special for me.

Thursday August 26 2004 at 23:44 GMT

It's been quite a trip, since I left Edinburgh over a month ago ... and I'm not posting from the Northwest lounge in SFO, heading home.

Without a doubt, the best part has been the people. In London it was great to catch up with old friends. In California, there have been so many great people, who have really taken care of me and been such fun to both work and play with. As my very good friend Michelle said to me many years ago, it's who you're with, not where you are, that counts. That has held so true thoughout. THANK YOU one and all, and I sincerely look forward to returning the favour sooner rather than later!

The second most fun part was having a car. My trusty Chevy Classic, 5EOV008, took me over 2000 troublefree miles. Having never driven 1) alone; 2) at night; 3) in rain; 4) with other people in the car, apart from my instructor; 5) on the 'wrong' side; 6) on a motorway/freeway; not to mention 7) in the challenging conditions San Francisco offers, in terms of hills, one way streets, cablecars ... crazy drivers, I think it went remarkably well. When I get home, I'm really going to miss jumping in the car. It was my wardrobe, my transport, my sound system, my friend. There's no way I can really justify having a car at home, so I'm expecting withdrawl symptoms soon.

On the plane I'm hoping to sort out some of the hundreds(!) of pictures I took and get them posted when I make it home. The flight has just been called, so I'm outta here. So long, and see you again soon, California!

Monday August 23 2004 at 07:48 GMT

Here are the two GPS'd overviews of my runs this week: a 15km run last Monday and yesterday's 16 miler, which took 2 hours, 28 minutes and 36.15 seconds to complete.

Monday August 23 2004 at 07:17 GMT

BAMF photos

Following on from Saturday, I've got my Bay Area Mobility Forum pictures online.

Monday August 23 2004 at 06:37 GMT

Well, it's been another fast and furious week. During it, Mahyad headed home, leaving me all alone (kind of). On Monday I managed to get a 15km run in and then on Tuesday I did some cycling at the hotel gym. I ate in the hotel restaurant, the West Bay Cafe, which was surprisingly good in terms of quality and value.

On Wednesday a few of us from work headed to a good Mexican restaurant on El Camino in San Mateo (what was the name, Nazar?), then Thursday I drove up to our office in Sacramento for a very busy day of meeting people I had worked with previously and have worked with over the phone but never met. In the evening I managed to get invited to a barbecue which was a really nice way to end the day: sitting outside in the fading warmth with good conversation. The only downside was no beer, due to driving.

On Friday evening, colleagues A and HP (they didn't want their names mentioned on here!) and I headed into San Francisco. We started off by aiming for an Italian restaurant on North Beach, but that was then vitoed and we headed to a fish restarant in Castro, finally ending up, after some quality on-street parking space spotting by yours truly, at La Mediterranee, which really hit the spot for me after too much generic dining and then drinks at Mecca. No beers, due to driving once again...

Yesterday colleague A left, so colleague HP and I headed to the city. My plan was to meet the mighty Russ and go to the first Bay Area Mobility Forum meeting, via somewhere for quick food. It was great to see Russ again; hard to believe I last saw him, for the first time, in April 2003.

As has been noted, the first BAMF was a great success. 27 people turned out, and there were some great conversations and discussions going on. I've got a stack of photos to post ASAP. The afternoon rolled to a close somewhere about 6pm!

Russ then gave me a guided tour of San Francisco over to the Marina, so that I could meet colleague HP. She had a plan for a good Italian restaurant for dinner, but it didn't turn out to be what either of us wanted. We ended up marching about for a while, before settling on Calzones for some carbo-loading action. Then we really needed to walk some of it off, so we wandered to Union Square, and then SWIG, a cool new bar on Geary Street. Again, no beer for me due to driving, but I'm not really missing it... :-O

This morning I took a 16 mile run on the Bay Trail. Felt wiped after it, but a shower, some Gatorade and a banana pretty quickly revived me. After the run, I didn't stretch enough, and I can feel my thighs and calves complaining already. Stupid mistake to make, but at least that is the sum total of my pain. Next weekend has to involve a really solid 18-20 miler.

In the afternoon, colleague HP and I went to Big Sur, and the Nepenthe cafe, which was cool. Somehow I feel like I've now seen enough of the Pacific Coast Highway for this visit, so it's looking like a direct visit to Yosemite during the week (plus, my geography was all messed up, which had me thinking Yosemite was south east of SF, not just east).

Tonight I'm going to sleep very well, before a visit to our Dublin office and a night in the city tomorrow.

Monday August 23 2004 at 05:49 GMT [via mobile]

When I was running this morning, I saw this sign which 
brightened my day.

When I was running this morning, I saw this sign which brightened my day.

Sunday August 22 2004 at 09:24 GMT [via mobile]

A few times I\'ve seen this building, on Columbus and 
Broadway(?) and I finally got a nice picture of it.

A few times I've seen this building, on Columbus and Broadway(?) and I finally got a nice picture of it.

Sunday August 22 2004 at 09:21 GMT [via mobile]

The bright night lights of San Francisco, from 
my Nokia 6600.

The bright night lights of San Francisco, from my Nokia 6600.

Sunday August 22 2004 at 09:13 GMT [via mobile]

Russ, Mike\'s girlfriend (sorry, I forgot 
your name...), Mike, Romain and I playing with new toys at the BAMF 
today.  This was taken with the megapixel camera on a Bill\'s 7610, a 
phone I really liked the feel of.

Russ, Mike's girlfriend (sorry, I forgot your name...), Mike, Romain and I playing with new toys at the BAMF today. This was taken with the megapixel camera on a Bill's 7610, a phone I really liked the feel of.

Sunday August 22 2004 at 09:05 GMT [via mobile]

As my great luck had it, today was the 
inaugural event of the Bay Area Mobility Forum.  I caught up with Russ
for food and now I\'m sitting beside Eric Lin of The Feature & Engadget
listening to Bill Day.  All good.

As my great luck had it, today was the inaugural event of the Bay Area Mobility Forum. I caught up with Russ for food and now I'm sitting beside Eric Lin of The Feature & Engadget listening to Bill Day. All good.

Wednesday August 18 2004 at 19:28 GMT

It's been a plague across many blogs for a while, but so far I've managed to avoid it as I'm using homegrown blogging software, as opposed to a package. Seems I got hit a few times over the last few days. The IP addresses have been banned, so I'm hoping not to see any more of them. Thanks to dwlt for the heads up.

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 06:21 GMT [via mobile]

One of the biggest things Edinburgh is lacking is a 
quality burrito place.  In fact, even any burrito place would be a step 
forward.  Being in California, there are plenty of opportunities to 
sample some of the finest.  This was my lunch today, a Super Chicken 
Burrito, and it was!

One of the biggest things Edinburgh is lacking is a quality burrito place. In fact, even any burrito place would be a step forward. Being in California, there are plenty of opportunities to sample some of the finest. This was my lunch today, a Super Chicken Burrito, and it was!

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 06:12 GMT [via mobile]

On Saturday I went to Santa Cruz and saw some brilliant
kite-surfing.  More photos to come from my real camera, but here\'s a
taster.  I\'m thinking I may give it a shot next week when I\'m on holiday!

On Saturday I went to Santa Cruz and saw some brilliant kite-surfing. More photos to come from my real camera, but here's a taster. I'm thinking I may give it a shot next week when I'm on holiday!

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 06:11 GMT [via mobile]

Friday at 6.30pm, and the traffic on 101 north is
at a standstill...

Friday at 6.30pm, and the traffic on 101 north is at a standstill...

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 06:08 GMT

Kerry, a university friend who yesterday celebrated her first year in New York City by signing up for another two, sent me this very cool link to Bikes Against Bush.

The basic premise is that during the Republic Convention in NYC, someone will ride around on a chalk-writing enabled bike. You can then send a message to the bike from the site, and it will be printed somewhere in NYC using environmentally friendly water-based chalk. It sounds really cool indeed, and I'd love to see it in action. New York-based readers (Kerry, Alex, I'm looking at you ;-): if you get the chance of a photo or video, please send it over!

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 05:55 GMT

Tonight Mahyad and I headed out, determined to find some quality food, not another cookie-cut chain restaurant. We were looking for a Thai restaurant in downtown San Mateo, but instead found Hotaru, a family-style Japanese restaurant.

We both did a bit of random selection from the menu, and both came out feeling very well fed indeed. The food was definitely tasty. Thanks goodness!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last wee while, but as you may have guessed, I'm working pretty hard right now!

Tuesday August 17 2004 at 05:49 GMT

Mahyad pointed me to this great Onion article about the A-Team being pardoned. The A-Team have been part of my life since Saturday evening's involved my brother, sister and I sitting in front of the TV ("not too close", as my mum would continually remind us) eating hamburgers, beans and potatoes, so it's good to see them finally being excused, given all the good work they've done over the years.

Friday August 13 2004 at 08:50 GMT

If you know me, good, tasty food is a huge part of my wellbeing. This week's eating experiences have been SO much better than the majority of last week's fast-food/takeaway junk. On Monday, one of my Indian colleagues took me to a good Indian restaurant, Clay Oven, in San Mateo (amusingly, the same name as a restaurant close to my house in Edinburgh). After so much samey food, I went in to overdrive and had some kind of food high, almost inhaling the food. That was good!

On Wednesday I was taken to Beli Deli along the road from the office for lunch. Think Subway using really good bread and great, actually fresh ingredients with a super nice owner with some quality chat. Big portions, and delicious.

Beer intake is still in single digits for the week -- in fact it stands at two so far. Having a car may mean less walking, but it certainly means less drinking for me.

Last week was also a disaster for running, in that I didn't. Given that the Berlin marathon is in six weeks, giving me a maximum of four weeks training left, I've got to put the foot down(!). On Wednesday I ran for 45 minutes or so up and down hills in the gym and tonight I nailed down 11.17km along the Bay Trail.

Next week I'm aiming to hit the trails of Yosemite, for some really fun running. GPS will keep me on track, and CamelBak will keep me hydrated!

Monday August 9 2004 at 06:26 GMT

Friday saw Hazel, Mahyad, Nazar and I Betelnut, an interesting pan-Asian fusion restaurant. Very tasty. Then we headed back to the place we were last week, Mauna Loa, and then Cozmo's in Cow Hollow, on Fillmore. On the way back to our hotels, we collected some more beers and sampled them. Wise? Mmmmmm, maybe not.

Saturday started quite late. After meeting up with Hazel, we headed for a walk along the Bay Trail opposite the hotel to clear our heads. We then had to head to SF to catch up with Mahyad (check out the guest book for some amusing pictures and chat; sorry, I just looked at this on your site, dude) and another colleague, but for a variety of reasons, we messed up and got into the city very late (more apologies, Mahyad). Hazel and I had food at L'Ottavo Ristorante, which was great, and then headed to find the guys in North Beach, without much luck. We had some cocktails at Enricos (I had Mojitos, made by Mr Mojito). When that closed, we headed back to the hotel ... but then took a detour, as recommended by Mr Mojito, to The Endup, which was a cool club, but sold no alcohol after 2am, which was probably just as well for us.

Sunday has been quiet, with some sleep catch-up and relaxation, ready for a hard work week. I'm getting an early night now.

Friday August 6 2004 at 21:28 GMT [Posted by Rich, reporting for thinkThin]

The bookie's favorite way back at the beginning of July but the only one of the last four not fancied by Martin at the beginning of it all in June... Nadia has won Big Brother 5. I see a lucrative future with Nicorette. That is all from BB5, I am sure Martin will fill everyone in with details of what they all do next.

Friday August 6 2004 at 20:24 GMT [Posted by Rich, reporting for thinkThin]

is.... Dan ! Oooohhh martin is good :-D

Friday August 6 2004 at 20:16 GMT [Posted by Rich, reporting for thinkThin]

Shell is out of the house and everything is falling into place for k1dd and his final day prediction. The all wise Martin predicts the final evictions as; Shell - Dan - Jason Only time will tell but as we head towards the final hours of BB5 I think all would agree that it has been a classic. Shell has gone, so no money for her Mom, but who is next?... Stay tuned :-D rl

Thursday August 5 2004 at 22:41 GMT

Just so that she could watch the final week of Big Brother, Fiona has got mumps ... and no computer (see, I do know someone with no computer at home!). She is doing a good job of keeping me up to date, however. Stuart has just been turfed out.

Due to complete work immersion and lack of non-work Internet access, I've totally not been keeping up with goings-on, but I'm surprised Stuart's out. William Hill still have Nadia as favourite, but shockingly Shell is least favourite to win and Jason has moved up to second favourite to win, ahead of Dan!

Monday August 2 2004 at 04:31 GMT [via mobile]

My San Francisco Marathon number.  Pre-race prep complete.  [Posted 
slightly later due to connectivity issues.  :-( ]

My San Francisco Marathon number. Pre-race prep complete. [Posted slightly later due to connectivity issues. :-( ]

Monday August 2 2004 at 04:28 GMT

During the week, when I was looking for a weekend run, I spotted that the San Francisco Marathon was this weekend. There were a few options to run it: 5k, relay and half marathon. After some consideration, I took the first half, for the better views.

There was a 5am(!!!) start, but I took the 7am. Thankfully, my hotel was not too far from the start, so I managed to stumble down and get there on time. It was a nice run, and I felt pretty good throughout. Here's my route from this morning and the route elevation. The weather was very much like running in Edinburgh: misty/light drizzle, cool and slightly windy at times. The supporters along the way were great, really, really encouraging.

By my watch, I clocked 1 hour 51 minutes, which is OK I think, although I have to admit I would like to knock a bit off that. The official results are not online yet, and neither are the official photos. Watch this space.

At the water stops, there was electrolite (that made me happy to hear; it's one of my favourite words ever), water and 'goo' (energy gel). Looking at the SF Marathon site, I see this is actually 'Gu'.

As many runners know, Vaseline is your friend (think chaffing prevention). I remembered the important parts, but forgot my nipples. As I said, in parts it was cold ... and now I have pain (as well as a nice blood-red stripe on my top!). Ouch. Lesson learned.

Right now, I'm online in the lobby of the hotel as there's no broadband, wired or un-, in my room. Now it's time to get some food and a well-deserved beer.

Monday August 2 2004 at 04:04 GMT

This weekend, I stayed at a hotel in San Francisco, to see some city life. On Friday, Mahyad and I went out for a few beers. It was a bit late by the time I made it to the city, but we struck out for the Marina district. Given that we were in Union Square, it took us really quite some time to get there and, of course, it involved some wrong turns and random drunks trying to give us directions and then following us for a bit. We finally jumped in a taxi to escape.

We ate at Extreme Pizza, then had a few drinks at Matrix Fillmore, which was recommended to us. The bar was nice, but it was really filled with underage kids, and we left, feeling old. We then hit Mamau Lau (or something like that -- I can't find anything in google for that, so I'm thinking I've got the name wrong) which was a bit better. The night ended with a fight outside the bar (not us, or even involving us, thankfully). The police arrived within a millisecond, and after one of the boys fell on to the doorman's scooter, sending it whacking against the pavement, he was cuffed (really) and put in the back of the police car. Mahyad maybe has a photo as we went past in our taxi.

On Saturday, we hooked up with another colleague from Edinburgh, Hazel, and grabbed some breakfast. They then headed for shopping and drinking, whilst I headed back to San Mateo to do some laundry at a coin-op laundrette (something I'd always wanted to do in America). It was quite cool; there were all kinds of different people in there, all willing to chat away whilst the big drum spun.

Saturday night involved dinner in North Beach, and then we checked out the Starlight Room at the Sir Francis Drake hotel. There were a bit too many old men with young women for my liking plus I wasn't drinking, so I headed off... Mahyad and Hazel stayed on. Next time you see them, ask them about Ricky Gervais and dancing! [A special hello to Mahyad's friends, who, apparently, have started checking out what he's up to on here. If he doesn't come up with some amusing stories for you, let me know and I'll do my best to fill you in.]

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