Alcatraz and champagne fountains

December 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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On Friday night Blake and I went to the YouTube holiday party, and it was about three times fancier than any party I have previously attended. Ever. And I went to a presidential inaugural ball in D.C. once, so that’s really saying something.

Earlier in the week I’d asked Blake to find a female coworker and get some guidance on how much I should dress up. Before that could occur, however, he heard a guy on his team brainstorming about where he could come up with a tuxedo at the last minute. A tuxedo! When Blake told me, I was sure the coworker was kidding. I have been to a number of business-sponsored parties — Christmas and otherwise — but usually I would stand out as the most dressed up in a sedate ensemble of tights, a skirt, and a turtleneck.

Not this party, though: to our great surprise, nearly everybody was wearing a suit. And in my blue rehearsal-dinner dress (which you can also see in the sidebar of this blog), I was among the more mildly-dressed women.  Once we got inside, it was clear why: this party was fancy. Bowties. Cummerbunds. Dresses covered in sequins. I was glad I wasn’t wearing a turtleneck!

It was held on the fourth floor of a building in downtown San Francisco with an incredible skyline view and a terrace. After we checked our coats, we mostly just drifted around oohing and ahhing about, well, everything: the champagne fountains, the caterers in tuxedos carrying around little trays of rare ahi tuna or mini croque monsieurs, the many open bars with every liquor imaginable, the free photo booths, the dim sum station and mashed-potato station and fancy meatballs and salmon skewers, the crab sliders… it just kept going. When I asked the bartender for the girliest drink he had, he made me a cosmo which left me pretty wobbly for the next 25 minutes. We found out the next day that there had been a doughnut-making machine on the terrace, but sadly we missed it.

Anyway, it was pretty neat. I met most of Blake’s teammates, which was fun, and all in all it was a lovely evening. I asked Blake to please not start a company until after next December so we can attend next year’s party as well. =)

Oh, yeah, the party was James Bond themed. I'm not really sure what that has to do with the holidays, but whatever. Blake's coworkers assured me that the tuxedos were because of the party itself, not the James Bond theme.

The next day we went to see Alcatraz, which was pretty nifty. The weather was great and the tour was pretty interesting. Here are some photos:

Alcatraz Island (taken from the ferry). To our surprise, the prison itself is only that little building on the top, which really isn't even that big. It only held about 300 prisoners at a time! The rest of the island is other stuff -- a garden, a nature preserve, apartments for the guards' families, etc. That lighthouse was the first lighthouse on the Pacific coast.

From Alcatraz with San Francisco in the background and century plants in the foreground. Those things always look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book.

The view of downtown San Francisco from inside the cellblock. (The bridge on the left is the less famous Bay Bridge to Oakland -- the Golden Gate is behind us.)

Anyway, it was pretty neat. Driving around San Francisco was a huge pain, though — not even considering the terrible Saturday-afternoon traffic — and it convinced us that we need to get a GPS. It’s too frustrating to have to spend our drive consumed with navigation instead of conversing and having fun.

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Google and YouTube

November 3, 2011 at 11:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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So in my last post I sort of glossed over the exciting fact that Blake just got a job at Google. We were sort of sad to leave Amazon because Blake really liked his manager and his coworkers there. And furthermore, Blake really likes Amazon itself — how it makes decisions and solves problems and accomplishes things. So in a way we were sad to leave.

But this is Google. How can you pass that up?

We were a little wary of California’s infamous taxes, of which there are many. (Washington, like Texas, has no state income tax.) Fortunately, the salary they offered him accounts for that and still gives him a pay increase on top of that, which helped make the decision very easy. And of course the weather here is only about a million times better than Seattle’s weather, which will be wonderful. I really will miss the rain in Seattle — honestly, I’m not being sarcastic — but I just couldn’t take Seattle’s cold any more.

Blake will actually be working on YouTube, which is a part of Google. He’ll be working on the front-end user interface, which means that he’ll be directly dealing with what you see when you go to YouTube to watch a video. Everything except the actual video itself — the video player belongs to another team. His team works on everything else on the site.

Google’s global headquarters is in Mountain View, but YouTube actually has a separate campus in San Bruno. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, here is a quick primer:

Silicon Valley

In the map above, you can see San Francisco at the top of the peninsula in the upper-left corner. (That water to the left of it is the Pacific ocean.) In the lower right corner of the map is San Jose, and the area between the two is what’s known as Silicon Valley. (Silicon Valley is not an official place, it’s more like a colloquial term for this region.) On a day with no traffic, you can get from San Jose to San Francisco in about an hour.

Mountain View (where Google’s headquarters is) is outlined in blue, and San Bruno (where Blake works at the YouTube campus) is outlined in red. We will probably end up living in Foster City, which I’ve outlined in green, but I’ll talk more about that in another post. For the next few weeks we’re staying in San Bruno just a couple blocks from YouTube.

Though Blake will probably spend most of his time working in the YouTube office, he will sometimes need to go down to Mountain View for events. Conveniently, Google operates a spiderweb of shuttles that go all over this map, and so when Blake needs to do that he’ll take a comfy bus on the 35-minute drive instead of having to fight traffic himself.

Here’s a little video Google made about working at the YouTube office:

Or if you’d rather look at a bunch of photos instead, there are some nice ones here: YouTube Office in San Bruno.

It really seems like a nice place to work. They have a great cafeteria that provides free food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so I don’t make Hot Pockets for Blake in the morning anymore. The other day he had red velvet pancakes with cream cheese. For lunch it was a kobe beef burger, and all day long there is an endless supply of snacks and drinks in little bins all around the office. They even color code them — the red bins for things like Reese’s and Snickers, yellow bins for medium-healthy snacks, and green bins for low-calorie crackers or granola bars or fruit. Also we’re going to save like $60 per month because we won’t have to buy boxes and boxes of Diet Mountain Dew for Blake anymore. (He used to bring three to work every day, but now he’ll just get free ones from YouTube whenever he wants.)

In addition to the food, there’s also a nice big gym and a three-lane 25 meter pool. It sounds like a lot of the people on Blake’s team work out and swim regularly, so it’ll be easy for him to get into a healthy routine.

All in all, it sounds really great. We’re excited.

Video: Nano versus a crumpled-up paper bag

March 27, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Nano enjoyed this crumpled-up bag during her convalescence after getting fixed. The video shows her doing about the same stuff throughout, so there’s no need to wait for a spectacular finale if you aren’t already enjoying the beginning.

Homeless orator orates to nobody

January 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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One evening we heard the sounds of a loud conversation creeping into our apartment from the streets below. We didn’t really think about it, but after about an hour I got up to check out the group of people inconsiderately talking so loudly. Imagine my surprise when it turned out it was this crazy woman — who’d been going for at least an hour before I saw her. There was not a single person other person within sight for whose benefit she could have been speaking, and there was no pedestrian traffic either. After about thirty more minutes she went to a nearby garage, pulled down her pants, and had a good poop right there in front of our whole building. Seriously.

This is why I’m glad that we can walk the dogs in the tea garden instead of having to go down to the street late at night.

(Our area is really very charming — she is an anomaly!)

Death and taxes

October 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A pretty manhole cover

A pretty manhole cover I saw on the way to dinner one night.

Well, things have been pretty busy around here lately — as you may have inferred from my little hiatus from posting. Blake’s mostly been busy with a work project, and I’ve mostly been busy with house related stuff. Uncharacteristically, he worked from home for all of last weekend as well as most of today (Sunday), but not to worry: there’s absolutely no reason to suspect that this is developing into a norm.

I, on the other hand, have been slogging through a mire of paperwork and red tape and bureaucracy related to getting a home loan. There’s no reason to worry about that, either — it’s just that underwriters demand an inordinate amount of paperwork — W-2s, tax returns, a multitude of information about former employers, residences, bank statements, etc. — and all our paperwork is effectively inaccessible in our file cabinet because it’s being stored, with the rest of our belongings, until we get the house. It doesn’t sound like it would be that difficult to gather all that stuff anew, but we’re fraught with special cases. For example, Blake’s former employer never gave him a W-2 for 2009. And the company (since it was a startup) was run out of some guy’s apartment and we don’t know his address or if he’s still there. And the company is out of business (maybe?) so there are no HR reps to verify Blake’s old salary or to confirm that he worked there or anything. Also, his old laptop with his tax returns had a hard drive crash, so we have no way to get them. You can order a copy from the IRS — for $57 — and in just 60 short days you’ll have your certified copy! (We hope to close by October 27 and the tax return is necessary to start the process of getting a home loan.)

Oh, Seattle, you live up to the stereotype.

Oh, Seattle, you live up to the stereotype. (In case the text isn't large enough, that one in the middle says "Hemp milk.")

But, the underwriters themselves order a copy and then compare your return to that copy (to make sure you’re telling the truth), so us providing a certified copy won’t work. (Since they’d be comparing two duplicate documents.) One might ask oneself why we have to bother providing a copy if they’re going to get the real info from the government anyway. It’s a mystery… But we have to get it. I’ve basically been tracking down these documents for 40 hours this past week, and boy is it a headache. A happy fun headache, because looming in the distance is our beautiful new home, but a headache nonetheless.

Amidst all the phone trees and being on hold and developing an intense hatred of Bank of America, I got some surprising news last week: a guy I knew from NI, Scott Savage, died suddenly in his sleep. He was younger than Blake is, played soccer and tennis regularly, and wasn’t overweight. He was also a really nice guy, and it’s terribly sad. I met him when I did my internship with NI in 2004, and then he went on to work there after he graduated (as I did). He was one of those guys who always had boundless energy and worked hard and always seemed on top of the world. I’ve gotten my news on his death through the grapevine, but so far as I know the cause of death isn’t known. He was on a business trip in Germany, I’m told, and so information hasn’t been as accessible as it would have been if he’d died in the  states. Whatever happened, it’s really tragic.

Shiner Bock in Washington

At a gas station the other day I saw this Shiner Bock truck. At first it seemed normal, until I realized that Shiner, which is a beer made around Austin, is probably pretty uncommon here.

So as I was wading through the amorphous bureaucratic mess last week and feeling frustrated at, well, most of the involved organizations, the news of Scott’s death really helped me to put things in perspective. Everything’s going our way, we’re happy, we’re healthy, and we’re just taking our first steps down the path to the traditional American dream: house, family, dogs, kids, etc. (But there are NO KIDS now or in the next nine months! Don’t infer anything from that American-dream statement, folks!) We’ve really got nothing to complain about.

And while we’re talking about happy things, here’s something else to make you smile: as I’m typing this, Blake’s playing fetch with Nano and Pico. Whenever Nano comes prancing back with the squeaky bone, we always have to pull it out of her mouth quickly so she won’t get the idea that a tug-of-war with us is acceptable. (This is important in case she ever picks up something we don’t want her to — either because it’s ours or because it’s dangerous for her.) Well, Blake just discovered that if you pick Nano up in the air, she drops the bone immediately! It’s pretty cute, and I took a video:

(Her dropping the bone under normal conditions really isn’t a problem. This is just a way cuter solution!)

Car accident (not me or my car!)

September 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Yesterday afternoon I was driving home from Kent on the way to pick up Blake from work. The roads were wet since it had been raining lightly all day, but it was nothing treacherous or unusual. Traffic was dense but moving at the speed limit. All of a sudden, a semi truck about 50 feet in front of me started changing lanes and I thought, “Gee, he’s moving over really quickly!” An instant later it became apparent that he was out of control! The truck slipped sideways (perpendicular to the direction of traffic) and slammed into a Camry, pushing it over a couple lanes and eventually into a Jetta which was then smushed into the concrete median separating the north and southbound lanes of traffic. As the truck slid, it jack-knifed and spun, and when it stopped it was jutting across almost all of the northbound lanes.

I squeezed by in the single remaining northbound lane and could see that the two hit cars were damaged, so I pulled over onto the shoulder to see if anybody needed help. When the two cars collected themselves, they were both able to drive over to the shoulder as well along with a fourth car who had been behind me. When I got out of my car, the truck looked like this:

Thr truck right after the accident

How the truck looked immediately after the accident (though I took this photo several minutes later). My car in the foreground.

I walked up to the two cars, and both of the drivers said they were unhurt. The other car who stopped but wasn’t hit was a 60-ish year old woman whose sister was driving the Camry (which sustained the most damage) and they were driving up from Oregon in two cars. They were pretty shaken up but otherwise calm. The driver of the Jetta was in her early twenties and didn’t seem particularly flustered. As it started sprinkling again, we stood in a little huddle recounting what had happened and being incredulous and happy that nobody was hurt. We had all stopped a hundred or so feet in front of the truck, and since it seemed unlikely that its driver was harmed, none of us had gone over to see it.

The truck up close

The truck up close

A minute or so later, while we were in our (now pretty calm) circle, the truck driver came over in a frenzy of yelling and defensiveness and blame-placing. He had a thick African accent (I think it was African — he sounded like someone I knew from Nigeria). “Did you see the guy? That guy just came over into my lane and I had to swerve! He just came right over! There was nothing I could do! Did you see him? It wasn’t my fault! I was driving and he just came over! Did you see him?” We all said we hadn’t seen the guy, and we were more than a little daunted by his yelling and anger and the wild arm-waving when he spoke. After a short time he went back to his truck and we didn’t really see him again. After he was gone we all agreed that he was probably telling the truth — none of us had been in a position to see somebody coming into his lane from the right.

The cars on the shoulder

After a few minutes, the other three cars backed up so we were all pretty near the truck in a neat line. The Camry's side mirrors were gone, so the backing up actually took her a few minutes.

About that time I said, “We should probably call the police.” The other three women had all thought that someone else had called them, and eventually it came out that immediately following the accident a random driver had pulled over near one of them and said, “the police are on their way” before zooming off. So we waited, and a little bit later we heard sirens and then a few cop cars and an ambulance rolled up.

Emergency vehicles

At this point you may be wondering why I was still around since I hadn’t been hit and nobody was hurt. Well, the only other non-hit car was the sister of the Camry driver, and she would clearly not be the most objective witness. Since I had actually seen the action up close, I hung around in case anybody wanted to hear my account of the events.

The cops talked to the truck driver first while the EMTs made sure everybody was okay. Here the Jetta driver announced that “[her] back kind of hurts” despite telling us that she was fine a few minutes earlier, which led me to wonder if she had just realized the sort of opportunity that had presented itself. The EMTs sat her down on the driver’s seat of her Jetta and then they and a bunch of cops stood around her in a big circle and, as far as I could tell, talked. This went on for 10-15 minutes and I started wondering if that might have had something to do with her notable youth and attractiveness. (Gosh, I’m a cynic!)

Empty highway

The view northbound. You can see the EMTs' stuff sitting on the ground next to the Jetta on the right.

(The Jetta driver seemed perfectly nice, and I didn’t really see much of what happened to her car in the accident. So perhaps she really was injured. I have no idea.) It was beginning to rain harder and I was going to be late to pick up Blake (and I had to go to the bathroom!), so I approached a cop and said I was a witness. He got my name and contact info and sent me happily on my way. I also gave my info to the Jetta and Camry drivers, so maybe I’ll be able to help if there are any facts in dispute. The truck driver was kind of scary and so I didn’t go tell him my info, but I’m sure the cops can contact me if necessary.

Conveniently, having four lanes blocked during rush hour for twenty minutes resulted in a full clearing-out of the interstate heading into Seattle (north of the accident). So I got on the highway and zoomed into town at full speed. Amazingly, I was actually only five minutes late to pick up Blake despite waiting at the side of the road for almost a half hour. Interstates are so fast when there are no other cars on them!

So all in all everything turned out mostly fine. It was pretty scary seeing that semi just slide around like that, though — I’ve been thanking my lucky stars since then that I wasn’t going a teeny bit faster, or I might have been the one next to that truck. I probably wouldn’t have been hurt either, but dealing with it certainly would have been a giant headache. Phew!

PS – Here’s another puppy video! Pico butts Nano (Youtube)

[Video] Pico wants in

August 12, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We set up a little pen for the puppy here in the living room — for when we’re not home or asleep — and populated it with a new crate, water bowl, puppy pad, and a few toys. (The puppy arrives tomorrow.) Throughout all the setup, Pico kept getting more and more excited (because he likes… pens? I don’t know), and by the end he really wanted in. However, although he is great at learning tricks, he is not so great at solving problems:

Note: There is no grand hilarious crescendo to this video. It just rolls along at the same level of entertaining, so if you’re bored at the beginning you’ll be bored at the end.

Apartment tour

August 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our apartment building is full of the future and orange and trendiness:

The lobby of our apartment building looking trendy and orange and futuristic

It's like we've gone back in time to the 1960s and then gotten in another time machine to go to the 60s' imaginary future.

Here’s the nickel apartment tour. The last couple minutes of it are a bit dizzying, so be prepared. Watching this video taught me a lot about what to do differently next time I’m taking a video tour of an enclosed space.

New puppy!

August 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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We’re getting a new puppy! We put a deposit down on her today and we’ll pick her up next weekend. She’ll be ten weeks old on Wednesday, at which point we’d be able to pick her up. I think we’ll wait til Friday or Saturday so Blake can be here all day for the inaugural puppy fun. In the video below, our puppy is the one that’s further away (with the symmetrical face markings). It isn’t the best video, but it captures the cuteness accurately. When we get her home there will be a multitude of puppy videos appearing here. If you like that kind of thing.

In case you’re wondering, no, we haven’t decided on a name yet. We’ve got a few days. =)  Also, the puppy is almost certainly related to Pico! Her father, a dog name Max, came from the same breeder that Pico did. (Chin of Touche based in Dallas.) Now that alone is suggestive, but even more suggestive is that the father looks uncannily like Pico. I’m hoping to get a photo of Max so I can post a side-by-side comparison. In the meantime, please enjoy these mostly redundant but still cute puppy photos:

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First morning in Seattle

August 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This morning I woke up to church bells ringing down the street form the corporate housing where Amazon is putting us up for a while. (You can barely hear them in the background around 0:45.) When I heard them I jumped up to get the video camera, but it took me a while to find it in our three giant suitcases, and by that time they’d mostly subsided. This is the view from our second-floor balcony (which is on “floor 1” in the European style, strangely).

In other news, I recently found out that Seattle does indeed observe daylight savings time. So we will always be two hours behind Austin and three hours behind the east coast.

Note: This video is not that interesting.

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