Sebastian Kirsch: Blog

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Redwoods!

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 10:07

California is – among other things, of course – famous for its redwoods, the tallest trees in the worlds. There is one redwoods park, the Portola Redwoods State Park, about an hour’s drive from Mountain View.

I decided to go there for some light hiking on Saturday. Considering that I did not leave Moutain View before 11:30, and thus had only about four hours of sunlight left when I arrived, it was more like an extended stroll through the woods – but let’s call it a hike for argument’s sake.

Portola State Park can be reached via a very narrow and winding road, which begins right outside Palo Alto. In fact, it is so small and winding that all other drivers on the road got out of my way and let me pass after I followed them for a few minutes – perhaps because I am such an assertive European driver? I don’t know. Perhaps it helps that I practically grew up on this kind of road.

Descending the road to the park, I had my first encounter with the local wildlife: A deer standing in the middle of the road! I was on the right way. In the park itself, I was informed that all the foot bridges over the Pescadero Creek had been pulled for the season. Crossing the creek meant taking off one’s shoes and wading through – I immediately felt like a real adventurer.

Fortunately enough, I found another group to tag along with – we were the only ones on the trails at this time of the year. I completed a 1 1/2 hour loop with them, and then went off on my own for another two hours. We saw another deer and some more lowly examples of the local wildlife – banana slugs.

And since it was not completely dark when I finished, I decided to drive over to the ocean and finally see the pacific. This meant another 45 minute drive, but I was in time to catch the sunset.

Photos from my trip are in my Portola Redwoods gallery. And once my new camera arrives, I promise better pictures.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Had a thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 13:29

Somehow, I always have to think of Alice’s Restaurant whenever the words “thanksgiving dinner” come up. “Had a thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, went to sleep and didn’t get up until the next morning, when we got a phone call from officer Obie.”

I had a thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat – Maria and Cheryl, our very gracious hostesses, took me and two fellow lost children in and plied us with formidable sushi, teriyaki, spinach salad, and topped it all off with a wonderful tres leches cake. It was all a thanksgiving dinner – or any holiday dinner – should be: We completely stuffed ourselves (even if it wasn’t turkey), were completely relaxed, had great conversation, great stories and an overall wonderful time. I can’t give enough thanks for this random act of kindness by two complete strangers.

Afterwards, the three of us set off for another night out in Castro, touring a few bars before ending up at The Café again. The Café was celebrating its ten year anniversary – with a latin night. Perfect. I just love latin music. If there’s one thing that really gets me going, it’s latin. Actually, us whitebread boys were definitely in the minority this evening. But the fact that people tried to chat me up in Spanish tells that I can’t have looked too out of place there.

So, needless to say, a grand old time was had by all. We’re doing it again in two weeks – and then we’re taking Maria and Cheryl with us.

And I hope I won’t get a phone call tomorrow morning.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Everything is bigger …

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 04:16

Sometimes it’s the small things you notice.

Europe USA
toothpaste 50ml 170ml
shampoo 200ml 400ml
body wash 250ml 354ml
my car family car compact car

Monday, 13 November 2006

Mt. View, week 1

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 10:12

I have been in the US for a week now – time for a short status report.

Work-wise, the week has been rather uneventful. Lots of classes and talks to attend, and too little time in between to get started with my projects. I have gotten into the (bad?) habit of turning up at work at about nine in the morning, have breakfast while sitting outside in the sun (as long as it is still warm enough to do that) and checking my emails and my calendar – and combined with having lunch at the company and staying for dinner this means that I usually get home between eight and nine. I have not been very social either for the whole week, but I mainly attribute this to a) working too long, b) having to drive from the company back home, and c) there being no bars within walking distance. (The closest bars are about 1.5 miles away.)

On Saturday, I went to San Francisco for a first look. I did what I usually do when I come to a new city: I skip all the tourist attractions and just wander around more or less aimlessly. In this case, my itinerary looked like this; I must have covered about 10km on that day:

Map of SF, with itinerary

I parked my car near the freeway entrance on Market St, then walked up Market St, down 8th St, back up again, and further towards downtown. In downtown, I stopped for a coffee and a croissant at a nice little crêpe place, before wandering through Macy’s and shopping a little. (Short rant: I am unable to find good underwear at the moment. My favourite is Burlington, which proves unable to find. I bought some Polo trunks at Macy’s, but as far as comfort is concerned, Burlington still winds hands down. End rant.)

I then climbed the hill to Japantown, where I spent some time browsing the shops, buying a couple of cards, a CD I’d been looking for for years (Blue Submarine OST Part 1, by The Thrill), and a maneki neko. The origami book selection at Kinokuniya is very impressive, and I had to restrain myself from spending an inordinate amount of money on books that I will probably not use. And anyway – I’m staying here for another three months, SF is just 45 minutes away, and I can always go there again. I did miss the most interesting shop – Paper Tree, the origami shop. I didn’t notice them until after their closing time, since they are tucked away in street off the main mall.

Peace Plaza

In the evening, I went to Castro to go clubbing with a friend. Both of us have not been in the area for long (him for two weeks, me for one week), so the objective was to find out what there is on Castro for further expeditions. We started with Badlands, which was rather too stereotypically gay, hot and crowded for our tastes. We dropped into the Midnight Sun before going to The Café, where we stayed for the rest of the night (until closing time at 2am). A nice thing about the Café – I guess – is its diverse clientele: It has gays, lesbians, straight people, guys dancing with guys, guys dancing with girls, girls dancing with girls – and nobody seems to care.

Monday, 06 November 2006

Mountain View, CA

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 09:02

Yesterday, I arrived in Mountain View, CA, for my training on board the mothership. I got up at four in the morning to catch my plane, flying via London Heathrow to San Francisco International airport, arriving at 13:30 – pacific time. By the time I arrived at my hotel in Mountain View, I had already been up for about 20 hours, having slept about four hours the night before.

Of course, I couldn’t resist trying out the hotel’s internet connection. When I remarked on IRC that I was staying on El Camino Real, an occasional chat friend piped up, saying “Oh, so you’re just down the road from me” – it turned out that he had just moved from Cambridge (England, not Massachusetts) to Palo Alto for his post-doc at Stanford a week earlier!

So we arranged to have dinner on University Ave in Palo Alto later that evening (Kan Zeman; I had the manssaf, a lamb shank on rice and bread, which was very good.) And afterwards, well, the evening was still young, so we went to San Francisco for a quick walk through Castro and a drink. I finally went to bed at about 12:30, having successfully avoided going to bed early and thereby increasing my jet lag. How’s that for the first day in the US – meeting a nice guy from IRC for the first time, have a nice dinner and then even see a first glimpse of San Francisco? I think it’s pretty damn great.

I got up at about nine this morning, and after breakfast, some phone calls and extended lallygagging, I finally hit the road, going to Palo Alto for some walking around, (window) shopping, a coffee etc. I parked my car on California Ave, which was the first daft idea of the day: I thought I’d just walk over to University Ave once I’d seen California Ave. What looked like a short distance on the map took me about 50 minutes. I decided to take the CalTrain on the way back.

The second daft idea of the day was deciding on a lark to drive over to Pescadero to seet the sunset over the pacific ocean. Now, there is a direct road down to Pescadero (Page Mills Road), and the distance is about 35km, which would have been doable, even though the sun was already sinking. The problem was that this road is even more windy than it looks on the map – it’s very narrow, has lots of hairpin curves, and it’s hard to do even 20mph on it. After about 40 minutes on the road, I got my first clear view west, decided that all those clouds into which the sun was slowly sinking must be where the pacific ocean should be – and decided that it probably wouldn’t be worth it to go any further. I snapped a few pictures of the sunset and made my way back, stopping a few times to take further pics of the lights of the peninsula with a magnificent full moon above them.

Sunset over ... presumably the pacific, but it's hard to tell with all those clouds.

The silicon valley in moon- and artificial light.

Another shot of the valley in moonlight.


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