Sunday, February 28, 2010

and the always enjoyable giant inflatable beaver

Bob Costas says some silly things almost every time he opens his mouth (must be a side effect of the cryogenic freezing he goes under between each Olympics to keep him from aging), but his comment about the giant inflatable beavers during the closing ceremonies was particularly choice.

I can't believe the Olympics are over -- with the end of both the Olympics and the conference planning that had consumed every waking moment of the past few months, I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. It almost feels like I've graduated from college or something and have an entirely clean slate of untapped possibility ahead of me. Clearly that's a massive overreaction, given that my sole participation in the Games is watching is compulsively, and I don't do any training in the years between Olympics (other than hyping it up any chance I get). But, my March will be v. different from my February -- and hopefully it will be different in a way that keeps me on track to have a full rough draft of my second book by mid-April so that I can edit and finish it in time for my self-set June deadline. Crazy, right? But, if I'm going to be a novelist, I have to set a pace and stick with it, and that's the pace I need to set if I'm going to be not just a novelist, but a novelist who escapes from the gilded cage that is my current job for an equally gilded (but less cagey) paradise of self-supporting writing.

Anyway, dreams of writing glory aside, I adored these Olympics -- and I cannot WAIT for Sochi in 2014. The graft, the scandals, and the corruption leading up to the Games in Russia will be awe-inspiring. I'm really tempted to try to go to those Games; Sochi is on the Black Sea, closer to Georgia than to Moscow, and will likely be a complete madhouse, so London in 2012 would probably be a better choice. But, I do love me some good chaos, and the first non-boycotted Games on Russian soil would likely provide just that.

Now, sadly, I should go to bed, and weep warm, salty tears over the closing of the past two weeks. Luckily, 2012 is only two years away! While I will be thirty years old during those Games (perish the thought), I don't think I'm going to retire from the sport of obsessive watching just yet...I have a few more Olympics in me before I have to make any difficult decisions.

Oh, and the rest of my day was fine too, thanks for asking - Samovar, some writing, a conversation with my parents, the finale of my tax preparations, and laundry (which Adit says is my version of a party). And now, goodbye Vancouver, goodbye Olympics, goodbye February (and happy birthday to Santy Claude), goodbye two weeks of limited sleep -- hello March!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

i want to be forever young

I had a v. slothful, occasionally conflict-ridden day, perhaps fueled by my sadness over the impending end of the Winter Olympics. Or, more likely, fueled by my continued attempts to recover from the exhaustion of the past few weeks; I told Terry this afternoon that I need to get my life together, and by "get my life together" I mean "write a book in the next three months", which she found v. amusing.

The conflict all happened in the morning; I woke up at 10:30 and didn't exactly intend to stay awake, and so was a little surly when I came into the living room and discovered that the internet wasn't working because my dearly beloved and esteemed roommate hates Comcast and so refuses to set up autopay and so, therefore, occasionally hates them enough to not pay the bill. The internet and tv came back the moment that he paid the bill (from my phone), but for some reason the internet worked for him and didn't work on either of my computers. So, I got surlier and snippier until he called Comcast and got it all sorted out, at which point my Puritanical roots were outraged enough at the concept of failing to pay a bill on time that I was wide awake. We made up, however, and ended up walking down the street around 1pm to have brunch at 2223. Adit was in the mood for an omelette, which they ironically didn't have, but I had a delicious chorizo scramble on tortillas with black beans and guacamole, which was the equivalent of breakfast nachos...yum.

We came home, and Adit went out big for a friend's thirtieth birthday party, while I stayed home, watched a lot of Olympics, finally unpacked from my India trip, cleaned the apartment, did some dishes, and started organizing my documents for my tax adviser. I'm almost done with that task (which involved itemizing receipts from the romance conference seven months ago), which is good news; now I just need to submit the expense report for my India trip and I can stop looking at piles of receipts sitting all over my desk. And now, I think I'll go to bed; I need to get up at a somewhat reasonable hour so that I can write a story for my short story class (which I haven't been to in a month, making it tempting to drop it, but since I won't get a refund and genuinely liked the class when I was able to attend, I just need to persevere and write the damn storY). And then, the closing ceremonies are on tomorrow night, after which I will cry and give the remote back to Adit so that he can watch something other than the Olympics. It will be difficult, but I've somehow always managed to survive before, and I hope that this year is no exception. Goodnight!

earth to matilda! i was at a day spa! d-a-i-y-e!

I have had an utterly fabulous day, starting with some deep deep relaxation, continuing through a late dinner with John and Jessica, and ending with some intense (albeit likely fleeting) hatred for Canadian short track skaters (although nothing rivaling the South Korean citizen who threatened to blow up the Australian embassy after an Australian ref DQ'd a SKorean skater earlier this week). As I believe I mentioned last night, the big boss gave me the day off today, and I decided to use the spa gift card that she gave me after the last conference I planned for her. This turned out to be one of the best decisions that I've made in awhile, far eclipsing any successful decisions I made while planning the conference itself -- I haven't been this relaxed in weeks, if not months, and I'm going to try to carry it through the weekend even though I need to prepare my taxes, finally unpack from my India trip, clean the apartment, and do a hundred other little things (must stop thinking of it before I lose my relaxation...)

The spa was fantastic. Growing up, I never expected that I would be a spa person -- in fact, I probably didn't know what a spa person was, since I mostly read historical fiction in which the 'spa people' were going to Bath and drinking sulferous water rather than getting fancy peels and masques, and there were certainly no spas or spa people in my hometown. And, I may still not be a spa person; I have a lot of trouble relaxing, either because my mind is running too white-hot to shut down, or because my muscles are so tense that it takes a bruising amount of pressure to unknot them. I also don't always submit easily to the tender ministrations of massage therapists; I think I spend the first twenty minutes of any massage subconsciously fighting the masseuse until I force myself to give in. But, it was worth it to force myself today -- I got a massage, a facial, a manicure, and a pedicure, all of which I needed (if you can say that you 'need' to pay someone to scrub away your callouses or cleanse your skin). I then sat in the 'quiet room' and read for half an hour while my nails dried, then showered and did my hair and makeup at the spa's fancy vanities. And the spa itself (Burke Williams in the Westfield in downtown SF) was much nicer than many I've been to; even though it's in a mall, right next to a movie theatre, it doesn't feel like that at all when you're inside, and the people who gave me my treatments were all quite talented.

Post-spa, I was starving since I hadn't really had lunch, so I had a late lunch (if 4pm is still lunch?) and a glass of wine at the cafe in Nordstrom. Then, I took the muni home (slightly less relaxing, although it wasn't apocalyptically raining like I thought it would be), took a nap, talked to Adit, and watched some Olympics before having a late dinner around 9:30pm with John and Jess. I was supposed to do the Olympic Rings Cakes tonight, but I cancelled due to my desire to be a sloth, but John and Jess had planned to come to this and were already in San Francisco for a recital, so we decided to meet up. It was lovely to see them; I hadn't seen John since the pizza extravaganza with Claude the Fraud and others at Gialina back in December, and I can't remember when I last saw Jess (maybe the night I inadvertently stayed over at their place?). We caught up for a v. long time and hatched some plans before they dropped me off around 12:30am -- and then I promptly picked back up where I had left off with the Olympics, watching Apolo's last two races. I may officially hate Canada now -- but I also thought that Apolo could have been a bit more graceful and not explicitly said that the ref ruled against him on something because the ref was Canadian, so whatever.

And now, after a perfect day, I shall go to bed. Tomorrow can't rival this, but at least I can look at my feet again without thinking they look like little miniature troll feet, so that's a positive step. Goodnight!javascript:void(0)

Friday, February 26, 2010

caught in a good romance

I had a fantastic day and am now utterly spent. I managed to sleep for seven hours last night and still pull off everything that needed to get done today to make the summit finish successfully; I've gotten really good at making just-respectable-enough slideshows in less than five minutes during breaks, so it all worked out. The feedback from both days was really good, people seemed to enjoy the summit and each other, the energy in the room was pretty good, and we seemed to accomplish all of the goals we laid out at the beginning. Most importantly (to me), the big boss was happy, and at the end of it all she thanked me (using a slide I made, of course), but then gave me an official Team USA sweatshirt from the Vancouver Games, and also told me to take the day off tomorrow without counting it as a vacation.

So, I feel very good about all the work that I had put in over the past six weeks to pull this off, even if it nearly killed me. I left work about an hour after the summit ended at 4:15pm, grabbed a Philz Coffee on the way home, and then spent the evening on the couch finishing the bottle of sauvignon blanc that was in the fridge while watching the Olympics and wrapping things up. I had to catch up on email and finish a couple of small things, and send my initial impressions to the big boss so that I can write the official post-event summary on Monday, but I finished around nine p.m. and focused on the Olympics after that. I'm glad that the timing worked out this way -- the ladies' free skate was perhaps the best skating competition I've ever seen, given the number of virtually flawless performances, the incredible skating by the top three, and the heartwrenching performance by the Canadian girl who lost her mother unexpectedly last weekend. So, like Scotty Hamilton (who just said on the latenight coverage that his father died sixteen years ago tonight) I cried like a baby throughout her performance, and throughout the medal ceremony. It was incredible...and now I'm spent.

I believe it's time for bed; even though I'm taking tomorrow off, I need to get up earlyish so that I can go to the spa for some deep, deep relaxation. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

we live the masterful life that's mythical

I'm too exhausted to blog for long, but I'm happy to report that despite a series of minor disasters throughout the day (starting with facilities failing to set up the room), the summit is so far going very well, and I manage to maintain my outward zen calm successfully enough that most people have no idea how much the summit balances on the edge of a knife. I've gotten a lot of positive comments on the agenda and activities so far, and I am hopeful that tomorrow will be as good (if nothing else, it ends at 4pm instead of at 9pm, so that's an automatic upgrade).

I will say that it's been nice the past few weeks to feel like I'm doing something I'm pretty good at; when I switched jobs last fall, I switched into something that I intuitively understand but haven't done that much of in the past, and it's been hard not to feel like I know my shit. However, even though this is a different type of event than anything I've planned in the past (and I was much more heavily involved in the content creation, and even got to design and facilitate a Stanford-style Crossing the Line exercise), I am quite good at anticipating and averting problems, which is what this slapdash summit planning experience has been all about.

So, short version is that I'm surviving, perhaps even thriving, but since I only got five hours of sleep last night, I really need to go to bed so that I can get seven hours of sleep tonight. Wish me luck tomorrow -- it's almost over, and then my three-day weekend awaits!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the music of the night

I desperately need to go to bed; the summit that I have been planning starts in approximately nine hours, and I need to get there early to print a bunch of shit, which is too bad. With the amount that I have to print I theoretically only need 20mins or so, but one of the items is a tricky mail merge to create nametags that include breakout session assignments, which was a brilliant tactic learned in my old typing/computer classes from high school that made me look like a genius in front of my boss (ha), but it's printing on some prescored namecards and so I don't want to show up late and then have them all get messed up.

But you didn't want to know that. Perhaps you would rather hear that I had a snack of Lucky Charms and Diet Coke around five, promptly discovered that a bunch of things that I thought were done weren't really done, Office Depot claimed they delivered my nametags but the nametags were nowhere to be found, I went through a series of increasingly-worrisome computer crashes that caused me to lose 45mins worth of work, and then dropped a Lite Brite and scattered little lite pegs all over my office. The sugar rush obviously didn't help my ability to deal with all that, and I was on the verge of tears (incredibly rare for me to be driven to that point) by the time I left the office to go to Office Max (where I spent more than twice as much as what the Office Depot stuff cost, since the Office Depot stuff was ordered w/a corporate discount, and now I'll have to send the shit back). But, I rebounded, had a calming twenty minutes circling around SFO in the rain (who knew it could be calming?) waiting to pick up Adit from his weekend trip, and then came home. I promptly sat down to slog, with occasional breaks to watch a women's figure skating program here or there, and now I'm feeling in good shape again. A lot of it will all come together at the last possible second, but luckily that's how both the big boss and I roll, so we're fine.

And now, off to bed...in less than forty-eight hours, it will be over, and I'm spending several hours at a spa on Friday to recover, so it's all good. Goodnight!

turn your face away from the garish light of day

I am going to be so dead tomorrow -- it's one a.m., and I wanted to go to bed three hours ago, but alas I have too much work to do. Today was good overall despite not sleeping well last night; I made it to Mountain View in time for the 8am start of the half-day big-boss staff meeting I had to attend, and was even able to get breakfast and caffeine beforehand (so key). I sat in that stuffy, increasingly warm room until around 1:30pm, and then worked my ass off without rest all afternoon to prepare stuff for a check-in with the big boss at 5:30pm. We checked in (verdict: everything done so far is great, but there are miles to go before I sleep), and then everyone who had been at the staff meeting left for a senior staff dinner at Sundance Steakhouse.

I'm surprised that I've never been to Sundance; it's the closest steakhouse to Stanford campus, so considering that I went to Stanford and then lived around there for over four years, it's a little odd that I never made it there. However, I suppose I was poor when I was a student, and many of my friends are vegetarians, so I really never had occasion to go there. Verdict: the appetizers were great, I had a great glass of pinot noir (in fact, when the finance lead asked me "what is it?", I said "delicious"), and my prime rib and baked potato were great, but I was increasingly annoyed that it took almost an hour between appetizers and the main course. Granted, a couple of people ordered soup/salad...but their dishes had been cleared for at least twenty minutes before the entrees showed up. I thought this was unacceptable, but that's probably because I needed to get back to the city, and I had not bargained on a 2.5hr dinner. However, it was fun to hang out outside of the office with the people I spent so much time with on vc, so I suppose it was worth it.

I came home and promptly turned on the Olympics, but I've barely watched tonight's coverage because I've been so focused on my evil laptop. Tomorrow won't be any better; I have to slog furiously all day if I'm going to be ready for Wednesday, and I have class tomorrow night that I don't want to skip since I missed the last two, so it's unlikely that I'll be able to watch coverage tomorrow night. We shall see what we shall see -- but for now, wish me luck in my quest to pull off this summit that I'm planning. If I survive to the end of day on Thursday, I'm taking Friday off and just booked spa treatments (using the gift certificate the big boss gave me after the last conference I planned), so this weekend is looking lovely. Goodnight!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

the countdown starts

I spent too much of today being lazy, which is not going to help with my ability to sleep this week. I dragged myself out of bed just in time to have dim sum at Hong Kong Flower Lounge with Heather and Salim, who are newly returned the Bay Area after a year-long stint in Boston. In fact, the whole day was exactly what I would have liked to do if Tammy was here, since it consisted solely of dim sum and the Olympics, but unfortunately she's not here and so I must persevere alone.

Anyway, dim sum was delicious, and so I came home and took a nap to sleep off the shrimp coma. Then, I did some desultory cleaning of the apartment before spending a substantial amount of time on the phone with my parents; I barely talked to my mom while I was traveling in India, and so we had a lot to catch up on. After that, I settled in to watch the Olympics and do my work, and I also successfully convinced Vidya to come over and share in my hermitage with me (helped substantially by the lure of leftover chocolate chip chewies). So, we ate sammiches, ate a lot of cookies, and watched the entire evening's coverage, seeing the results of the latest men's downhill combined race and a whole lot of ridiculous ice dance. I'm not a huge fan of ice dance, but their costumes are amazing. And, as Vidya pointed out, the IOC or the international skating federation should have known better than to make 'ethnic/traditional dance' the theme for the original program; the Russian team dressed as 'natives' looked totally absurd, and could never have gotten away with it if they were Americans.

So, we had a fantastic time laughing at them, even if I wasn't quite as productive as I would have been if the Olympics weren't on. But I got through the most pressing of my deadlines, and as I like to tell myself, there is always tomorrow (although tomorrow and Tuesday will be brutal, to say the least). To make it less brutal, I should probably go to bed; I want to get up a little before six so that I can get in the office in time to do some stuff before my half-day staff meeting starts at 8, so I should really sleep. Goodnight!

starry-eyed surprise

Apologies for not blogging last night; I inadvertently stayed up until after three a.m. reading a book, and so I didn't have the energy left to blog when I finally finished. However, despite the crushing workload that I should be suffering under, I've had a great couple of days! Yesterday I had several meetings with the big boss, and after all that I feel that things are under control for the summit that I'm planning next week even though I will likely need to work most of tomorrow. Adit came to my office around 4:30, and we carpooled back to the evil city in what was one of the easier Friday night commutes in recent memory. He spent some time packing up for his trip to DC, and then Vidya came over and the three of us went out for dinner.

The restaurant we tried was Lavash, a Persian place over in the Inner Sunset. The place is small, and we were lucky to be seated relatively quickly despite a lack of reservation, but I loved the interior, and the place was family-run, which was nice. We split a couple of great appetizers, and then I had a delicious chicken kebab and rice while Adit and Vidya split some other vegetarian options. We followed up with ice cream, as well as a Turkish coffee for Vidya and a mint tea for me. Then, Vidya and I dropped Adit off at the airport and came back to my place, where I successfully coerced her into watching the Olympics with me.

She escaped sometime around midnight, and I read a romance novel for a few hours before going to bed. That made me sleep late, and so I didn't get out of bed today until noon -- lovely, particularly considering how little sleep I've gotten in the past few days. But, I needed to get ready for my houseguests -- I had invited over some of my old friends to watch the Olympics with me, particularly since I couldn't have Tammy here to enjoy it all with me. Due to my lack of sleep, my unexpected noontime awakening, the amount of work I need to do tomorrow, and my general laziness, I scratched my original plan for dinner (truffle butter pasta for the vegetarians, boeuf bourguignon for the non-veg's) and decided to go with the much simpler plan of providing ingredients for glorious sandwiches. So, I picked up a lot of meats, cheeses, veggies, and spreads at the grocery store around the corner, and made deviled eggs and chocolate chip chewies and cut up the veggies for the enjoyment of my guests.

The sandwich idea seemed to be a hit (it helped that I provided herbed goat cheese, fancy deli-sliced meat, a lot of chips and guacamole, etc.). It was definitely a hit with me -- while it was probably more expensive than making one or two dishes, it was definitely easy to get ready, easy to clean up (plates of sandwiches don't get as nasty as plates of other foods)...and meant that a) I didn't have to cook while everyone was here, and b) if people came late, everything was still good and people could just help themselves. It ended up being a great group and a great time -- Oniel miraculously arrived first, which is very unusual. He brought his girlfriend Kathryn, and the other people who showed up were Vidya, Katrina, Jav, Jav's girlfriend Silvia, Folkman, and Kristin. I hadn't seen Kristin in ages, and Jav's girlfriend usually doesn't come up to the city when he does either, but my lowkey 'eat, drink and watch tv' activity appealed to both of them as much as it appeals to me.

So, we all sat around, ate a lot, and watched the evening's coverage. It was a good set of events to watch with a group (I mean, they all are, but I need to watch figure skating with a slightly smaller group so that I can hear Scotty) -- two-man bobsled, both speed skating and short track, women's super-G, etc. I believe that fun was had by all, and it was certainly had by me. After everyone left around midnight, I did half the dishes, and now I'm wrapping stuff up so that I can go to bed.

Tomorrow I have brunch plans, but then I need to spend the rest of the day slogging my little heart out. I want to find some time to squeeze in some writing, but we shall see. In the meantime, it's time for bed -- goodnight!

Friday, February 19, 2010

with glowing hearts

I am so happy. Yes, I worked for fourteen hours today, not including the two hours I spent commuting...but I shut my laptop despite the piles of work and spent a solid ninety minutes devoted to watching the men's free skate without interruption. It was lovely -- it was just as thrilling as I thought it would be after watching the short program, and there was a ton of suspense even if the costumes weren't nearly as entertaining as they were the other night. And even though my family has often accused me of having a heart of ice, I cried twice -- once after Johnny Weir skated his ridiculous heart out, and again after the gold medal was decided. Yes, I'm crazy.

However, the work is taking over everything else; it will all be better after next week, but the conference continues to consume me and will be pretty crazy for the next few days. So, while I would love to provide more commentary, I should really sleep. My pinky finger feels strained from all the typing -- and yes, I realize it's silly to complain about that when some chick who had a horrific crash on the downhill yesterday came back and got bronze in the slalom despite massive bruising, but hey, I'm not an Olympian. I hope you are all enjoying the Games -- goodnight!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

come on baby light my fire

If you need proof of how tired I am...I'M GOING TO BED AT 10PM DURING THE OLYMPICS. That means a full media blackout tomorrow so that I don't find out the rest of tonight's results, and I want to work my little heart out tomorrow so that I can enjoy the men's figure skating finals tomorrow night without working during the programs. That will be difficult -- after meeting with the big boss for two full hours today (plus her two hour staff meeting), it's clear that I will likely be working all weekend in an attempt to get things ready for next week's conference.

Anyway, I need to get some sleep; I had that weird dizzy feeling all day from sheer exhaustion, and I had to stop in San Mateo for coffee on the way home because I was falling asleep while driving. So, getting eight hours of sleep tonight would do wonders for my ability to keep going for the next week. And then I can enjoy the Olympics tomorrow night without risking sleep -- and who would want to sleep through the amazing costumes we're sure to see during the men's long program?! Please continue to enjoy the Olympics -- goodnight!

crazy in love

What am I crazy in love with? The Olympics, of course -- as though there can be any doubt. I failed to sleep last night, only falling asleep at six a.m., which changed my entire day. I slept until around eleven-thirty, they woke myself up and worked from home all afternoon. I should have gone down to the south bay so that I could go to class, but I was pretty sure that I would fall asleep in the car if I attempted to drive, so I skipped class and stayed home instead. So, I worked the afternoon away while watching women's and men's biathlon (supposedly bigger than the Super Bowl in Norway), and continued to work as the evening coverage started.

Adit came home around eight p.m., went to the gym, and then we went to North Beach for a late dinner. He was going out somewhere around there afterwards, so we had pizza and wine and for some reason spent twenty minutes or so talking about mortality, but it was good to hang out nonetheless. I then came home, and I'm continuing to work while catching up on tonight's coverage. I am loving loving loving the men's costumes for the skating short program -- even Evan Lycecek, who is relatively sedate in all black, still has black sequins, black plush shoulder pads, and black feathers on his hands, and he v. charmingly cried after doing his season-best performance. But now, I should really try to wrap this up so that I can get a few hours of sleep, since I have to make it to Mountain View tomorrow. Wish me luck, and enjoy the Olympics!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

love in the time of sequins

I had a very lazy day today, doing absolutely none of the things I should have and absolutely all of the things I wanted to. The day started off v. early, since I woke up a little before five a.m. to take my father to the airport. I successfully saw him through check-in and to the security line, where we parted ways after our two-week adventure with plans to take another trip at some point in the future. He continued on his journey (and made it home safely); I came home, crawled into bed, and slept until after 1pm.

I finally woke up, showered, and then met up with Vidya (aka Vidius Chandicus) for a v. late lunch. It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, and so while I should have stayed in and focused on writing, unpacking, working, etc., I instead met up with her in Hayes Valley, where we had burgers (well, I had a burger and she had a tofu burger) at Flipper's, whose key amenities were the large outdoor patio and the wonderfully crazy Russian waitress who had the makeup styling of a figure skater and kept saying 'Ta-da!' whenever she brought something to our table. So we sat there and enjoyed a glass of wine with our food and general people-watching amusement for awhile, and then decided to walk into the Mission and grab coffee at Four Barrel coffee. That place was a completely different scene than Flipper's, and perhaps one of the biggest scenes I've seen in awhile; it was completely awash in hipsters, with their plaids, their skinny jeans, their inexplicably layered, mismatched leggings + skirts + dresses + cardigans + scarves + gloves + messy hair, etc. It was all much too much, although I did enjoy the people-watching tremendously, and the coffee and the space were quite nice.

After two such fabulous activities, Vidya and I walked back to my place and I gave her a ride home. I then came back here, and Adit and I were as ships passing in the night, since he had been here all afternoon and left as soon as I got home to have dinner. I settled in thinking that I would write for an hour (since I have an exercise due for class tomorrow night that I haven't started), but instead I procrastinated by watching the end of 'American Pie 2' and the end of 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' before the evening's Olympics coverage started. I then watched it all -- the snowboarding, the color commentary pieces, the men's downhill (in which I was reminded of the 2006 Bode Miller fiasco), the medal ceremony for Alexandre Bilodeau (during which I cried), and finally the pairs' figure skating. It was all quite lovely, and made for a good end to a wonderful day. It also made me want to wear a lot of sequins -- the German skater, while lovely, looked like a stripper about to come out of a wedding cake, and her outfit was by no means the most sparkly. And so I can't wait to see what costume Johnny Weir skates in tomorrow night -- oh, the ecstasy.

And now, even though I'm wide awake and would rather stay up and watch the short-track coverage that they had to postpone to latenight due to a technical delay while they fixed the ice, I'm going to force myself to go to bed; I have a lot of work to do tomorrow so that I can leave early for class, and then I have to come home and watch the men's short program tomorrow night. Goodnight!

Monday, February 15, 2010

in the time of vikings and dragons

I'm pretty much exhausted...we landed in San Francisco at 9:30am, which was a little early, but we promptly ran into two issues: my bag took almost forty minutes to unload, and we found out that my father's flight to Des Moines was cancelled. After dragging our stuff to the domestic terminal, he ended up rebooking himself on a flight for early tomorrow morning, and so we spent the day hanging out at my apartment. I warned him that all we were going to do was watch the Olympics, and I followed through on my threat/promise; other than doing a load of laundry, showering, running to the grocery store for essentials, and picking up pizza around seven p.m., I watched Olympics all day long. It was glorious; I got to see the men's biathlon, some Nordic combined, speed skating, and the pairs' short program.

Vidya came over around seven p.m. to watch with us, and so we all partook of Little Star pizza while watching the evening coverage. I have to keep being careful about my internet usage during the coverage; because it's tape-delayed on the west coast, I can't do any real-time research on athletes/facts while watching events or I will accidentally find out what happened in that event. I was reminded of this when looking up the Australian freestyle skier who had made a fortune doing shady malware internet scams, and discovered that he had gotten silver -- it didn't tell me who got gold, but took a way just a bit of the enjoyment/tension of the race. So, I will be careful from now on, which means that the next couple of weeks will have to be a virtual media blackout.

But I can check the internet after the evening coverage...and you should check out this gem that I found of Johnny Weir skating to Lady GaGa's "Poker Face":



I love all that is ridiculous, and this is pretty much the height of it. That, plus the silly things the commentators say throughout the events, made for a v. pleasant day, and I'm looking forward to almost two weeks of fun. Now, though, I should sleep for a few hours before getting up to take my dad to the airport...goodnight!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

i want to show my mad love

I'm sitting in the Delhi airport, waiting to board our flight to Hong Kong and then onward to San Francisco. We had a great day in Delhi; we woke up slightly late in our fabulous hotel, and then got ready with the Olympic Opening Ceremonies playing in the background. I didn't get to see all of it, but I did get to see the dueling fiddlers dressed in ridiculous plaid, which made me happy. We had breakfast in the hotel, and then spent the day driving around Delhi, seeing Jama Masjid (the third-largest mosque in the world), a Sikh temple, the Baha'i lotus temple, Red Fort, the presidential palace, etc. We did a bit of shopping, and then we spent some quality time at the Radisson near the airport, where we had dinner before coming to the airport.

And now, it's time for me to find some water and get ready to board. Perhaps I'll blog from Hong Kong, but only if I can't find someplace in the airport showing the Saturday evening Olympics coverage. Regardless, I'll blog when I get back to America!

Friday, February 12, 2010

i can feel the hands of fate

Apologies for not blogging yesterday; it was the first day that I missed in recent memory, but I missed it because my internet access failed last night and I am currently without a smartphone. The lack of both internet and data-connected phone made me just a little bit crazy -- it's funny how desperate I get for connection when I'm cut off, even though I'm horrible at emailing people back or making use of the internet in any substantive, useful way.

Anyway, we've had a great couple of days. Yesterday we drove to Agra, making it there in time to see the Taj Mahal in the late afternoon. It rained the first time that I went to the Taj Mahal, and so I didn't appreciate the amazing brilliance of the inlaid semi-precious stones on the white marble, but the setting sun on this trip lit everything up. So, it was all gorgeous, and I think my father really liked it. Then we went shopping -- we managed not to buy anything, but we saw the amazing technique of the men who hand-knot the Persian/Kashmiri carpets, and we also saw how they inlay marble. I ended up feeling rude and awful because our tour guide (Vinay; he and his brother Vishal are friends with my friends Chris and Natasha, and they both work in tourism and so arranged everything up here for us) wanted to surprise us by taking us to his home, which would have been awesome, but I had foolishly scheduled meetings for last night. As it turns out, I should have just skipped them and gone to Vinay's house since my laptop/internet died and caused me to miss one of the two, but c'est la vie.

We spent the night in a great hotel that would have given us a view of the Taj from our room if it hadn't rained last night and caused fog/smog this morning to obscure the view. But the bathroom was lovely, and so we both spent too much time showering (likely because the shower the day before left much to be desired) and got a later start than planned this morning. Vinay picked us up and we went to Agra Fort (awesome) and Fatehpur Sikri (which I adored last time -- but this time the president of Romania or some shit was visiting and they had closed all the palaces at Fatehpur Sikri to the public, so we could only tour the mosque, sad). We then dropped him off so that he could return to Agra, and we made the long, slow trek back to Delhi, ending up in Friday rush hour. When we got to Delhi, we picked up Vinay's brother Vishal, who got us checked in to our hotel here (Le Meridien, which is awesome). We had dinner in the great restaurant, and now we're going to go to bed. Tomorrow we're touring Delhi, and then we get on a plane for San Francisco (via Hong Kong) tomorrow night!

The one fly in my ointment is that I'm going to miss the Olympic Opening Ceremonies...but I suppose I'll survive. Pls feel free to leave recaps in the comments so that I can catch up when I get back!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

welcome to delhi

We had a v. lazy day in Hyderabad; I did a whole bunch of work this morning and early afternoon while we hung out around the hotel, and then Jaffer took us to the office to say goodbye to Ismail, took us by my old apartment so that I could show my father where I had lived for six months, and then dropped us off at the airport. The new Hyderabad airport is so incredibly nice, particularly in comparison to the old shithole of an airport, but it would be nice even if you didn't see the old one in all its disastrous glory. We had an early dinner at McDonald's, then checked in and hung out for awhile. Our flight was a bit delayed, and so we got into Delhi at almost eleven p.m., but our travel organizer was waiting for us with the car.

He brought us to our hotel, which has won awards for its class but is a v. different beast than the luxury business hotels that I've stayed in during most of my India travels. However, it is much preferred to the place that we all stayed in while visiting Hampi, even if they do use skeleton keys rather than keycards. And now, after this short and boring post, I really need to go to sleep; we are leaving here at nine a.m. for Delhi, and it's already one a.m., so it's time for bed! The Taj Mahal awaits!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

i love you just the way you are

My time in Hyderabad is rapidly drawing to a close. I spent almost the entire day in meetings, trying to squeeze in time with as many people as possible while I was in the same time zone with the people I used to work so closely with. In general, I was v. successful, although the result was that I was too exhausted to drag my father out into the heart of the city in search of something more interesting than dinner at the hotel. Instead, I came home from the office (with a stop at a shop to buy my dad some Diet Pepsi so that he could avoid paying the extortionate minibar prices for soda), laughed at the fact that my father was watching some terrible-looking movie that ended with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson almost getting eaten by tigers in a zoo, and then we went downstairs for dinner.

I managed to convey my earnest desire for murgh makhani (aka butter chicken), which they were able to make for me; my dad had steak, which I looked askance at but he claimed was pretty good. He told me all about his adventures today -- he went to Charminar and climbed up as far as they would let him go, affording him a good view of the city, and then he went to Salar Jung museum and lamented over the fact that they have some pretty cool stuff in a setting that is the opposite of a sterile, preservative environment. He took pictures, but Vidya and others will just have to wait for them; perhaps I'll post them tomorrow. But for now, I desperately need to sleep; my father fell asleep awhile ago, but I've worked for the two hours since the end of dinner, and it's time to crawl into bed. Goodnight!

Monday, February 08, 2010

cut loose, footloose

I'm sitting in the lobby of the hotel, outside the bar in which they're playing a lot of really bad music, watching Indian men belch as they walk by. I'm not sitting here specifically to watch men belch, but that's a byproduct of needing to take three conference calls between 9:30 and 11pm, which is really cramping my style. Sadly I need to be in the office by 8:30am tomorrow, so I should really wrap up, go upstairs, and go to sleep.

But first, to recap the day. I managed to get up in time to get ready, wake up my dad, and have breakfast with him in the hotel before I went into the office this morning. I saw Ismail when I got there; people with insanely good memories will remember that he's in charge of the drivers for my company's expats in Hyderabad, and so I had spent a lot of time with him when I lived here in 2005. It was good to see him, and he sang my praises to my father; I get the impression that it's not as fun for him now that the expats are mostly 1-2 week revolving-door expats, rather than the group I was with who typically stayed for 6-18 months.

Dad then left on an adventure to Golconda Fort and Shilparamam market, while I slogged the entire day. It was nice to see people whom I hadn't seen in ages, and I got some work done (although it won't possibly be enough in the next couple of weeks, given how much there is to do for this conference). I left the office around 5:45, and should have stuck with the original plan of having dinner in the hotel so that I could have napped before my calls -- but instead I let Ismail talk me into using a car so that Dad and I could go out for dinner. We went to Little Italy, which didn't exist when I was living here, but became one of the expats' favorite restaurants in later years. It was good, but it of course took way longer than it should have (it wasn't open yet when we got there around 6:30, and so we didn't get done until around eight p.m.) Then, we drove back to the hotel, I took a twenty-minute power nap, and I've been doing work ever since.

Ah, well...I'm in India for free, so this isn't that bad of a price to pay, even if the belching of the men walking by is getting out of control. And on that disgusting note, it's really time for me to go to bed. One more full day in Hyderabad, and then we leave for Delhi on Wednesday!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

hips don't lie

I'm at the end of my first full day back in India, and I had a lovely time. I likely had a more lovely time than my father, since I knew what to expect from the place and he didn't, although I must say that one thing at least has changed for the worse. In particular, I was unimpressed by brunch at the Taj; apparently most expats now go to a newer hotel that is much closer to the office and the apartments, but I wanted to go to the Taj for old times' sake. When I was here, they were getting later and later in their opening times; we showed up after 12pm, and it was almost 1pm before the buffet was actually up and running. Meanwhile, they have replaced the Sri Lankan band with some singer who sang Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" rather poorly and twice in a row, which was totally unwelcome. They also added a creepy clown making balloon animals outside the dining area (see photo below), and it was all even more strange than usual.

However, in general it was great to be back. Jaffer drove us around today, which made it surreal-y like I've never left. After brunch, we went to Mebaz, where I bought a couple of outfits for Adit's wedding, and then we went on an adventure to find a sim card for the unlocked phone and get some Diet Pepsi. We stopped off at a jeweler's, where I saw the longest pinky fingernail I've ever seen (likely verging on three inches), and then at the shop where I bought a carpet last time (although he failed to sell me a carpet this time, instead settling for a couple of shawls). We made it back to the hotel sometime after five p.m., and ended up having dinner here at 'La Cantina', the Novotel's attempt at Mexican food. They got it mostly right; the furniture and ambiance was nice, and the fajitas were tasty, but the tortilla chips were more like rice chips. But my sweet lime soda was tasty, and their constant efforts to keep the mosquitos down (sprays, incense-style bug smog, bug zappers, portable bug zappers, etc.) nearly worked.

Now, I should probably wrap this up and go to bed; I have to go to the office in the morning, which means I need to get more sleep than I got last night. Photos from Singapore are below for your viewing pleasure...goodnight!

snapshots from singapore...volume six



Marketing fail...I really don't want little creatures in my beverages, as a rule, particularly if they are naked cherubs.



Marketing win...makes me want an HTC phone (oh wait, I have one!)



They're somehow growing sunflowers in the middle of Singapore's Changi Airport.



Okay, this is technically from Hyderabad...but they've now added a weird clown to the 'entertainment' at Taj Krishna brunch. Creepy!

snapshots from singapore...volume five



What's behind all those cool Singaporean shophouses? Mass attempts at air conditioning.



Even the automated information machines in the Asian Civilisations Museum are so regretful when they are unable to help you.



This is a much more evocative name than 'fire extinguisher'.



The best mojito that I've had in a v. long time (at Boomerang on Robertson Quay).

snapshots from singapore...volume four



Singapore's skyline springing up from the river.



The Merlion has to be one of the best city symbols ever.



The Merlion standing (swimming?) guard in front of Singapore.



A surprisingly funky bridge spanning the Singapore River.



Unfortunate architecture on the bank of the Singapore River...it looks like a 50s-style imagining of what cafes will look like in space.

snapshots from singapore...volume three



Gorgeous flowers outside the Singapore office.



Singapore is still a bustling port...as seen from the 35th floor of the Singapore office.



I'm sure I'm misinterpreting what this is supposed to be, but I saw this and thought it was an attempt to make Big Brother look friendly and non-threatening.



The bumboats on the Singapore River are now purely for tourists...and currently decked out for Chinese New Year.



Are they trying to build a battleship on top of this building?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

living the dream

We've arrived India, after a full day running around Singapore and a four-hour flight to Hyderabad tonight. We had breakfast in the hotel in Singapore this morning before checking out, and then we took a taxi down to one of the quays on the Singapore River. We walked along the riverfront for awhile, and eventually decided to take an hour-long boat tour of the river. After the river tour, we stopped in at the Asian Civilisations Museum, which was quite nice; the museum is very well done, and while we skipped the India and China rooms, the Southeast Asian rooms were interesting and worth a visit.

After the museum, we went back upriver in search of the chilli crab place that my friend Sarah recommended. It was totally empty, so we went next door to Boomerang, where we had awesome prawns and I had one of the better mojitos I've ever had. Then, we went back to the chilli crab place (Red House) and had a big bowl of chilli crab. I thought it was delicious, but I think it was too spicy for Dad's tastes, and the crab was quite a bit of effort for relatively little meat.

We then proceeded back to the hotel, where we picked up our bags and went to the airport. The travel process was perfectly smooth, and they definitely encourage you to shop; we ended up buying an unlocked phone since my old unlocked phone has finally lost its life, and then I couldn't help myself and bought an awesome pair of sunglasses. Then we got on the plane, flew to India, got off the plane, and discovered that the new Hyderabad airport is amazingly wonderful, particularly in comparison to the dump that I flew into in 2005. Jaffer (one of my favorite drivers from my earlier stint in Hyderabad) picked us up and brought us back to the hotel, where we're getting settled in.

And now, it's 2:20am in Hyderabad, 4:50am in Singapore and 12:50pm in California, so I should really go to bed. I will post pictures sometime soon -- goodnight!

Friday, February 05, 2010

slung

I'm exhausted; I would say that I'm doing pretty well with the jetlag, but I woke up at six a.m. this morning even though I could sleep until after 7:30, and so I didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked. I also had a glass of wine and a Singapore Sling over dinner (see below), which didn't help matters.

I spent most of the day slogging, both at the office and at the hotel when I walked back here during a mild downpour. As proof of how nice Singaporeans are, some girl shared her umbrella with me as we crossed the street -- if that happened in San Francisco, they would expect you to give them drug money for the service. I had a pretty productive day and feel that that things are slowly coming together with the conference I'm planning. I also had lunch with Sarah; she took me to the Maxwell Road hawker stalls, a mostly-open-air area with several aisles of cooking stalls serving up all sorts of delicacies and Asian cuisines (Chinese, Thai, Indian, Singaporean, etc.). We split some noodles and a 'carrot cake' (see photos below to understand why carrot cake is in quotes).

However, I got some sad news after lunch; my uncle Scott (my mother's brother-in-law who lives in St Louis with my aunt and only three cousins on that side of the family, for those of you who know the players) passed away suddenly. This was a shock; he had been sick for quite awhile, but they had recently discharged him from the hospital -- and so when he passed out and my aunt called the paramedics, he refused to go back to the hospital after the paramedics showed up, and then he passed away again and ultimately passed away.

It's a sad story, of course, made sadder by the fact that my father and I will miss the funeral as a result of our travels. It doesn't make sense to try to fly back given how long it would take to get there, and so we're going to continue on.

After that, I slogged some more, came back to the hotel around five, and did some more work until it was time to go out. My father had walked a lot and I was, as mentioned before, tired beyond belief. Given the intermittent showers and our intermittent energy, we decided to have dinner downstairs in the hotel -- and the verdict was that it was really good. I had a glass of wine and a Singapore Sling with my dinner, which led some server to giggle over my alcohol consumption, which I thought was inappropriate. Ah, well, c'est la vie.

Now, though, I'm making very stupid typos, writing things that make no sense and then trying to delete, etc. Have a great weekend -- we have a full day in Singapore tomorrow, and then we go to Hyderabad Saturday night! Yay!

snapshots from singapore...volume two

Some small flowers outside the hotel in Singapore (of interest only to my mother)

Sarah promised carrot cake for lunch, and she delivered - but carrot cake is more like fried radish, scallions and eggs than something sweet and covered in frosting

Seafood and noodle dish. Combined cost of noodles + carrot cake (above) = SGD$6 (about USD$4.20)

The seafood appetizer section of the buffet at Friday's dinner, Singapore

Singapore Sling - served by a cheeky bastard who giggled at me drinking alcohol while my father drank tea

snapshots from singapore...volume one

Lovely hot green tea served in a beer stein

The strange 'towel set' we got free with purchase of a sim card at 7-11

Some temple or other building near Smith Street in Chinatown, Singapore

Lunch on Wednesday - pork cutlet and rice (with delicious Coke Light, of course) in one of the restaurants on the ground floor of my office building, Singapore

Xiaolongbao - soupy pork dumplings at Din Tai Fung, Singapore

Thursday, February 04, 2010

super trooper lights are gonna find me

Today was my first full day in Singapore, and it was great; I should have moved to Singapore a year ago. I woke up around eight, showered, got ready, and Dad and I had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs before I went to work. The breakfast was good and attractively displayed, but everything was cold (including things that should have been hot), which was a bit annoying. After breakfast, I parted ways with my father, who spent the day wandering around Chinatown; I walked the three blocks to the office, where I spent the day alternating between meeting with people, attempting to get stuff done, and trying to keep myself from crashing.

My friend Sarah is in this office (so is my friend Joann, but she is unfortunately in the Philippines and so I won't get to see her), and so she rescued me from the dead zone where I sat for the first hour of my visit (one part of one floor is quieter than a tomb), found me a desk, and gave me recommendations for lunch. I had lunch at a Taiwanese place on the lowest level of the office tower; my lunch consisted of a pork cutlet with some rice and vegetables, along with a Diet Coke, for around $5 USD. Then I went back upstairs, attended a regional all-hands, went downstairs to get bubble tea, came back up for meetings, went back down to get something at Starbucks to stave off my 4pm jet lag attack, and then tried to work for the rest of the day with varied success.

At six p.m., Sarah and I walked back to my hotel, picked up my dad, and took the subway over to the City Hall area, where we had xiao long bao (soupy little dumplings, although I'm sure that's not exactly what 'xiao long bao' means). We had the pork xiao long bao, some shrimp and pork dumplings, siu mai, fried wontons, and buns with red bean paste while catching up on all manner of things. Shawn joined us late, since she's been dealing with some ridiculous stuff at work, but it was good to see her nonetheless. After dinner, Dad and I came back to the hotel, and I did some email for the past hour while trying not to fall asleep. Now, I'm losing that battle, so it's time for bed!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

singapore slog

I want to be sitting at the Raffles Hotel, tourist trap though it is, drinking Singapore slings -- instead, I'm sitting in the lobby of my more business-y hotel, having just wrapped up a two-hour video conference with the big boss's staff. Note that the call was midnight to two a.m. Singapore time. So, while I could recount all the strange and wondrous things that my dad and I saw, I shall not, partially because we didn't see all that many things today given that we stupidly fell asleep for about four hours after checking in at 2pm, and partially because I'm too surly to blog since I have to get up and go into the office tomorrow morning.

However, we had a good trip over the ocean; the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong was 14+ hours, most of which I spent sleeping with my sleep mask and flight pillow. I did watch "Inglorious Basterds", which I had really wanted to see when it was in theatres -- my verdict was that there were parts that were slow, but taken as a whole I really liked it and thought there was some fine acting (no wonder the SS colonel is getting all sorts of acting nominations this season). Then, we sat in Hong Kong for a couple of hours, where we had breakfast while watching the fog and mist clear over the sea beyond the airport. The flight from Hong Kong to Singapore was relatively short (three hours feels like nothing compared to fourteen); I stupidly watched part of "Love Happens" with Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston because I like him, but it was quite possibly the worst, most boring movie I've seen in my entire life. So I switched over and watched the end of "Inglorious Basterds" again, which was to be preferred.

As I said, we slept after checking into our hotel, but then woke up around seven p.m. and dragged ourselves out of the hotel in search of food. We walked through Chinatown and had dinner on Smith Street (which has stalls and open-air seating, although we ate inside), and it was quite tasty. Then we came back, I slept for an hour, and then I came down to the lobby to do my call.

Now my battery is dying and I'm dying with it, so I'm off to bed. I will post more interesting things in the v. near future!

Monday, February 01, 2010

leaving on a jet plane

Can I really be that predictable in my song lyrics fortitles? Yes I can.

Dad and I are at the airport; we're checked in and are outside so that he can stock up on nicotine inhalation before our fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong. I must say that I'm looking forward to sleeping copious amounts on the plane...I didn't sleep as much as I should have, and then it was go go go all day to get ready.

I dragged Dad down to Mountain View, and he spent half an hour amusing himself by observing construction while I met with the one person I desperately needed to meet with. Then we had lunch with Vidius Chandicus, which was v. lovely as per usual. After lunch we went to Target, then drove back to the evil city, where I packed furiously and then sent a slew of work-related emails.

Adit got home around seven, and we intended to take Dad to Little Star, but I fortunately remembered that it's closed on Mondays before we walked over. Instead we went to Chow, where we spent an inordinate amount of time discussing pigs. Then we went home, brainstormed an idea for my writing career, and then Adit drove us to the airport. And now, I'm done typing this on my phone...Vidya and Adit, I will tag this when I have my laptop. Goodnight, everyone - the next time I blog, we'll be in Singapore!

blame it on the alcohol

I was not feeling completely up to snuff this morning; I woke up with more of a hangover than I deserved after having four or five glasses, and so I can't imagine how Adit and Jav were feeling. I spent the morning groggily trying to wake up, and then went over to Duboce Park Cafe to grab a sandwich. When I came home, Adit and I did a massive cleanup of the apartment, vacuuming, swiffering, scrubbing the bathroom, doing the dishes, etc., etc. Then I attempted to do some packing, but only succeeded in figuring out which clothes I'm going to take.

Sadly, I opened my laptop and realize that there were a million things I was supposed to do this weekend and I had someone convinced myself that none of it was that important. My delusions were precisely that, and so I slogged for a couple of hours while watching part of the Grammys. I will have to do some work tomorrow morning, but at least I'm a bit closer, and I might be able to get on the plane tomorrow without totally shirking my responsibilities between now and then.

I made it to the airport just in time to pick up my father, who flew in tonight from Des Moines in preparation for our epic journey. His bag was already there, and so we picked it up, drove back to the city, and stopped at Safeway to buy ice to go with the Diet Pepsi that I had already bought for him. Now we're sitting around the apartment, watching 'CSI:NY' while I blog. And, we're checked in for our flight tomorrow! In less than twenty-four hours, we'll be on the plane! I will blog before then, even if it's just something quick from my phone; until then, goodnight!