Friday, August 09, 2013

This afternoon I went to the annual "Corporate Games" beer bash on main campus. Lots of fairly entertaining events like the shark cup on the head water exchange event. Bounce on those balls you loved as a kid down the course. Giant sling shots of water balloons to your team mates where were supposed to capture them unbroken. Spell lots of words from certain letters as fast as possible. I don't know how they score up to determine "winners" but I know awards are given to best costumes among other things. Food and drink was good as always. As I was enjoying my wine and corn salad I listened to several conversations floating by. This was the first time I really felt I worked at a tech company. There were whole other languages being spoken very animatedly. The words were English - but...not... I consider myself reasonably tech savvy but this was a different language. Interesting.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


The photo quality is poor as I shot this through a fence at night but I thought it was worth capturing. This is the "House Rules" for the contractors on a Sydney Opera House project.

Our House Rules
I will...
1 Do everything I can to go home safe
2 Never forget rule #1
3 Respect my workmates
4 Communicate positively with those around me
5 Challenge my mates to do the right thing
6 Present fit for duty and ready to do my best
7 Never take short cuts at the expense of safety
8 Lead by example and be proud of my work
9 Speak up if I see something not quite right
10 Step up and help my workmates if I see they need help

Not bad rules for many things in life

Q scored a goal in a lacrosse game. Sadly neither parent was there to see it. He scored #4 out of about 10 goals and they were dominating the other team - a nice change from some of their games where they are the scoreless team. After 6 goals they go to mercy rules and coach insisted that they pass ball at least twice - later increased to 4 times - before scoring. Q said he had a “break-a-way” goal - he was playing “attack” which means he has to stay in the 1/2 of the field near the goal - and ball and players were congested at other side of the field when teammate passed to him and he ran down, shot, and scored. I did arrive later in the game to see him make an assist for the last score of the game. This is his first season and we weren’t sure it would go very well so it has been great to see that he’s been able to pick up decent ball handling skills and more importantly enjoy the game. Both boys seem to like to play “middie” - the only position that runs the whole field - which is actually slightly larger than a football field as they play on a football field but can run behind the goal which is on the touchdown lines. A too scored this year - I think a first for him as well. Our boys don’t seem particularly suited to the middie position as neither are that fast nor do they care to exert themselves to outrun anyone. Attack might be a good position for them. Fortunately the game isn’t too violent at this age yet. The teams are in 2 year brackets and it is interesting to see the huge size difference - and also note that size isn’t that important especially as this is the B (or C!) team so the best kids are off playing on the A team. 

Q is a really self-sufficient kid - has been since he was first able to move. I recall A asking me if Q was allowed to help himself to the chocolate that we in an upper cabinet. No. Q was about 2 and had taken a chair and climbed up on the counter so that he could reach the shelf he wanted to get to. Q is also a very determined kid when he has an idea. He came home from school the other day and wanted to make dog treats. He has made them cooked treats before - we just make stuff up and it usually turns out pretty well. At school that day they made dog biscuits for a local charity to sell. He needed help finding molasses but after that he didn’t ask another question. Of course my kitchen was a bit of a wreck when he was done but the dogs liked his treats better than the ones he brought home from school. His were more like fudge in consistency rather than hard biscuits. They smelled quite nice - he had put in about 5 different spices. Other ingredients (that I know about) included eggs, flour, and shredded carrots. We are trying to get both boys to help make dinner at least once a week. Q you can just turn loose. A surprisingly needs much more help - his recipe reading skills are surprisingly poor. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

So I made it back to Tokyo. Also the Park Hyatt. Even less time on the ground this trip - less than 24 hours. But still it was enough to get me thinking about toilets. Specifically Japanese toilets. The hotel room toilet was pleasantly heated. There was also at least 6 different buttons I could choose from for my hygiene and comfort. Spray size, strength, temperature. Air dry. Have to admit I tried a setting - and would try more if I stayed longer. The public toilets were very polite - they obscured any rude sounds you might be making with gently flushing sounds the whole time you were sitting. Wonder how the urinals work? Are they more private than in the USA? Any added noises?

My co-worker took me for another lovely lunch. Both times it was to restaurants in the building up on 52nd floor or so. This time it was for "traditional Japanese" - as opposed to "tofu". It was similar in that we each received a tray of the same items - 7 or 8 of them. I have no idea what all I ate although I did ask at the time and snapped an iPhone photo. I remember the familiar ones like sashimi and tempura and miso soup but there were more unfamiliar ones as well that were quite tasty.

I stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong for 2 nights at the start of my trip, then a night in Tokyo (which is NOT next door to Hong Kong), then back to the Grand Hyatt for 2 more nights. First 2 nights I was upgraded to Club Level (or whatever it was called). Breakfast up on the 33rd floor or so and dinnerish things and drinks in the evening. Kind of Ritz Club Lite. Food wasn't quite as nice as the Ritz but still quite good and I really liked the dark chocolate mousse. I only managed 1 night there as it was already too late my first night. Two days in Hong Kong I was treated to lunch. Typically travel is a bit of a lonely affair and I sit at a Club level table watching the boats go by below and the lights twinkle or call up Room Service and am thankful for English speaking TV channels. But sometimes I get lunch with a co-worker or business associate which I always enjoy. This trip a local took me to a very fine Chinese restaurant and proceeded to try to give me as full a range of food as possible. It was much more food than either of us needed. Soup, egg rolls, rice dish, dumplings, veggies, shrimps, fish, pickles, cucumbers, jelly fish, other food. You could have rolled me out. Very good. Another day was more just fine dining. I had a duck breast with fig and balsamic sauce. Excellent. Even better when they presented us with two dishes of chocolate chunks at the end - one milk and one dark. I was very sad leaving behind so much yummy chocolate but didn't feel I could scoop it up in a tissue in my purse.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tokyo looked to be a city worth spending some time. I only had 26 hours on the ground so clearly didn't have anywhere near enough time to do it justice. I've always wanted to see Kyoto and some of the country side - I've had an interest in Japan ever since high school. We were waiting to take the kids when they finished 5th grade at their school in the city where they learned Japanese (and culture) - and then we moved to the 'burbs. I think I was saddest - although I guess truthfully my youngest was saddest to leave his best friend behind - he still doesn't have a "friend" at school (it is a VERY high bar for him). My oldest on the other hand has dozens of "friends" and loves the larger pool at the new school. (Well not so new at this point - almost 2 yrs now in this district). Back to my trip... I was for some reason surprised to see all the rice paddies and bamboo forests from the train on the way from the airport to Tokyo. Complete with the occasional single person tending to the field. Don't know why I was surprised - almost any city I've ever flown in/out of has had some fields of some sort around it (not SFO of course).

The company puts us up in excellent accommodations. I got to stay at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku this trip. The film "Lost in Translation" was filmed here. I stayed at the Hilton Sydney next. They were quite a contrast to each other. Park H. was a study in calm oasis. Even the colors were very soothing - sea foam blue and black accents in the floors with the bedrooms and some warmer deep tones in the public zones. Check in is very civilized up on 40something floor - just you, the table, and the checking in person. There were maybe 3 or so tables. Then you are accompanied to your room by one of the nice ladies and shown the amenities. I truly couldn't think of anything I wanted that wasn't in my room - at least my bathroom. I had to take a tub bath - just 'cause. Purple salts! The Shangria-La in Beijing actually had more amenities at the desk in retrospect - tape, scissors etc. But I had a nail file at the Park. And PJs (although too huge for words). From my bed I could raise and lower the black out blinds - although I could do the same at the Hilton. The Hilton immediately struck me as so much hustle and bustle. I learned later that the elevator bank to our offices was actually in the ground floor lobby of the hotel. Different street address but same actual space. Can't believe no one told me!

My co-worked took me to a tofu place for lunch. There were about 5 meals to choose from - all in Japanese. The co-worked said the waitress recommended one of the mid-priced ones. I was happy to oblige. It was tofu 8 ways (I facebooked 7 ways but then realized after the fact that miso soup is soy based). So strictly speaking it isn't tofu but rather soy 8 ways. There wasn't a dish I wouldn't have again. It ranged from cold roasted soy soup to a soft tofu that was recommended to have by itself and then with warm fish broth and/or salt and sesame seeds. I can't figure out how they do the tempura tofu - the inside is so soft and the outside so crispy. There was tofu in salad with little soy crisps on top. Tofu sashimi. Tofu on rice. Soybeans in a little sweet white paste.

I would be happy to return to Tokyo although it was interesting visiting Sydney immediately afterward. Sydney is much more compact and easier to visit and see in a shorter trip. Tokyo is a vast city and has many districts with sets of high rises. I was quite impressed with the amount of foliage down at the street level and the hotel was next to a very large park.

I kept singing "Follow the yellow brick road" in my head as I wandered around. Almost all the sidewalks had a prominent yellow tile stripe down them - not quite in the middle. The tile was raised - in bands going the direction of the sidewalk mostly but changing to dots or something else at intersections. I asked my co-worker about them and he had no idea what I was even talking about! I was sort of sad to learn that it was just for handicap / visually impaired. There are quite a few bikers and I wasn't sure if it was the dividing line between walkers heading in different directions or perhaps bikes on one side. Nope. Still... "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" in Tokyo. It gets you everywhere (except in the park).

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I had forgotten what a great city Sydney is. I was only there almost 2 days but happened to hit some great weather - mid-70s and sunny. I managed an evening walk the first night - just around the neighborhood. My hotel turned out to be in the same building as our office (convenient!). Also across the street from Queen Victoria something - a lovely 3 story shopping place that must have been an old building that was rehab-ed. Great old details etc. Some really nifty public spaces including the shopping ones like QV but also great outdoor spaces like Darling Harbour. The next morning I made sure to take the time for almost 2 hour walk. I headed west to the water at Darling Harbour then north to the bridge and Circular Quay and the Opera House then back south through the park back to the hotel and breakfast. I had some great light for a while. This shot is from near Circular Quay just before the sky clouded over. I have quite a few decent shots but nothing amazing. I tend to set out when I am traveling looking to photo document what I'm seeing in my mind to tell a story to people back home (who actually have little interest in looking at my photos - but no matter!). I had my trusty 10-22mm lens on the camera so most shots are like this altho I did have my 24-105 with me - which I finally pulled out near the end of my walk for the cockatoos.
We don't have cockatoos at home - at least not outside zoos or pet stores.


Monday, May 07, 2012

I could enjoy being rich. Work puts us up at very nice hotels. After using the heated toilet seat I poured myself a purple shower. I didn't bother to use the loofa although I did watch TV while bathing. I weighed myself after showering off. I have traditional Japanese PJs to wear - along with the ever present asian slippers (even United offers them). This is my first stay at a Park Hyatt - I'm sure it won't be my last. I haven't figured out any amenities that I want that aren't on offer. Even the ice bucket has ice already waiting for me. The room controls are right by my bed - including the mechanized shades.

But to back up - this is my first visit to Japan. I can't really justify many (any more?) visits as we don't have an office that is just our division - instead we just have 15-20 people who share in the main office. So nothing much for me to do. Shucks. I took the train in from the airport. It was about 80 min or so but much of the trip was above ground. To my surprise (for some reason) we passed field after field of what looked to me to be rice paddies. And a few bamboo forests waving high. Don't know why but it really tickled me to see. Even if from a passing train. Even saw a few solitary workers tending to their fields.

Just finished my very tasty room service. I was originally thinking I'd hit the hotel's Japanese restaurant but instead found something to my liking on the in-room menu. Chichen tatsuta-age (fried) with miso soup, rice, and some pickled veggies. All was very tasty. The chicken was probably the most tender I've ever had. One of the pickled veggies looked sort of like a black dill from the outside (that shape but not bumpy) but was purple inside. Yummy. Now off to wander around the hotel briefly before bed. Just about morning back home.