Category > Bay Area

42 Hills

11 January 2011 » In Bay Area » No Comments

I love San Francisco and I love to walk. So I started a new Tumblr blog called 42 Hills that tracks my progress through doing all the 27 walks in the Stairway Walks of San Francisco book. Check it out and join me, if you like.

Ferry Plaza Food Extravaganza

13 August 2007 » In Bay Area, Food » No Comments

Mushroom Shop

So I was going to write a long post, nay, multiple long posts about my new job, moving to San Francisco, how cool my new place is, how much I love living here, etc, etc, etc. You know, the usual stuff from someone who moves from suburbia of South Bay to the coolest city in the country. But I’ll save you the grief of reading through that and summarize:

  1. My new job (at Outspark) is cool. I get to build platforms to support games that we publish and all these games include some type of social interaction. So, Web 2.0 + games = profit!
  2. Our first game — Fiesta — is blazing through our target demographic like Homer Simpson through week-old donut bucket behind Kwik-E-Mart.
  3. San Francisco rocks. You should try living here at least once.
  4. On second thought, no, don’t try living here, it’s crowded and expensive enough as-is. You can visit, but if you do, please, never, ever call it San Fran. Or SF. Or, heaven forbid, Frisco. The locals call it “the city”, but for you it’s San Francisco. St. Francis of Assisi, mkay? Welcome.
  5. You should vote for my submission to the Passport theme photo contest at JPG Mag. Really. All the cool kids are doing it.
Cowgirl Creamery

Let’s move on to the real topic. Even before I moved to the city, I kept hearing that the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is something to be experienced. So this past weekend, I got up early enough (yes, 10 am, I blame my co-workers for the previous night) and went to “experience” it. My place is just over a mile from the Ferry Building and it’s a very nice walk along Embarcadero and all the piers. Just beautiful, especially on a cool, breezy morning.
The market itself is outside, along the front of the building, but most of it is on the rear plaza overlooking the Bay. Walking through it is enough to make you salivate: fresh vegetables piled high on the tables, golden honey glistening under the sun, heirloom tomatoes showing their multi-hued juiciness to the public. I saw a stall that sold not fewer than 6 different types of pluot. I tasted (and bought) Snow Giant white peaches that were so sweet and tender that you don’t even have to chew them. I lost count of the word “organic” written on the product signs. And if you tire or get hungry, like I did, just walk to one of the food stalls on the south side, get yourself a nice California-style omelet, salad, or sandwich, and enjoy it while sitting by the water and thinking how awesome this place is.

Caviar Cafe

Still with me? Good, it’s not over yet. There’s also the Ferry Building itself, which I can unabashedly and without slightest exaggeration call “foodie heaven”. From Cowgirl Creamery, making dozens of varieties of cheeses and creams, to I Preferiti di Boriana, giving you a taste of Tuscany, to Recchiuti Confections, that looks nothing more like Apple Store, but for chocolates. And then there is Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Cafe, which surprised even me with their selection. Plus, there are restaurants, cafes, wine shop, gelateria, and even a bookshop, to complete the picture. Quite awesome, to sum it up, and a great place to spend a few hours. Or a day. And a bunch of your money. The only other place I’ve seen anything like it is Paris.
Granted, Mountain View Farmers Market is quite good and is cheaper. But then, it is in Mountain View.
So if you do visit San Francisco — or if you live here, but haven’t bothered to visit the market — do yourself a favor and get over to Ferry Building on a nice Saturday morning. You won’t regret it.

It's Tuesday

19 July 2005 » In Bay Area, Books » 3 Comments

It’s that time of year again. No, not Tour de France. Not the time of the crushingly hot, lead-melting temperatures either. It’s the time of the year when I evaluate my housing options, and so far the facts are:

  1. the housing market in Bay Area is crazier than Robin Williams on cocaine
  2. my apartment complex has been sold to a different entity and the new management company are complete and utter pricks

Given that I have not yet won a World Series of Poker championship and that the rent on the already overpriced apartment currently occupied by me has been jacked up even higher, I can easily say Au revoir, je vais chercher un autre endroit. Probably somewhere in Sunnyvale.
In other news, I finished Blondie24 and started on The Day After Tomorrow, because I felt like reading an engaging mystery thriller. Blondie24 was a good, if somewhat basic, introduction to the field of artificial intelligence and genetic programming. It was definitely oriented towards a lay person, but Fogel does a good job of describing their quest for evolving a checkers-playing neural network.

Point Reyes and Hollister

18 June 2005 » In Bay Area » No Comments

On the Memorial Day my friend Simon and I drove out to Point Reyes, that remote and unique California landmark, taking some photos along the way. It’s a beautiful route if you take highway 1 after crossing the Golden Gate bridge and keep going along the coast and then the San Andreas fault.
And last weekend I finally went down to Hollister with Jeremy Z to go soaring in a glider. The weather could have been more agreeable, but it was great anyway. After being towed up to about 5,500 feet we were in the air for almost an hour, and let me tell you: it’s very different than flying in a big metal tube. I would liken it to riding a train versus a bike. Jeremy, who has been flying gliders for a while, took us through a couple of maneuvers, pulling 2 – 2.5 Gs along the way and giving me a glimpse of what fighter pilots and astronauts must feel. I had the front seat in the glider and managed to grab a few shots here and there.

Moving Time?

29 May 2004 » In Bay Area, Me » 16 Comments

Yesterday I got an unpleasant surprise when I got home after work. The management of my apartment complex has left a note in my door saying that my lease is expiring in two months and that the rent is being increased $300 (about 30% from the current level). Now I know that the economy is recovering, but this seems like it’s the height of the boom again. So, I have to seriously think about looking for another place unless they agree to a more reasonable increase.
I’d like to find something fairly close to work (not more than 15-20 minutes away by car) and probably an apartment complex rather than a townhouse or a condo. Fairly close to 237/101 would be nice and a proximity to some semblance of social life even better. Any suggestions for a good place? Palo Alto is another option I guess, but may be more expensive.. Anyways, let the search start.

Sailing Lessons

07 May 2004 » In Bay Area, Pursuits » 3 Comments

So I’ve been getting into sailing more and more lately. The last outing was on a 33 foot Moorings Beneteau boat. Myself, Anil, Fergus, and 3 other people chartered it on Sunday and went to have fun around the SF bay. Pictures are here.
And I have also signed up for sailing lessons. I’ve already gone on the introductory sail one, but Basic Keelboat Sailing starts tomorrow. 2 hours of theory + 4 hours on the water every Saturday and Sunday for two weeks. Then it’s Basic Coastal Cruising, with the same schedule. So when I’m done I’m supposed to know all the strange and wonderful nautical terms such as clew, luff, shroud, forestay, leeward, jib, halyard, and beam reach. When I first opened the sailing instruction book I realized what the non-computer people must feel like when faced with a text from the Computer section of the bookstore.
Where will this lead? Who knows.. Maybe sailing around the world, maybe just puttering around the bay on the weekend. And to give you a taste of what it’s like, here’s a tongue-in-cheek quote:

Someone once said that to experience the thrill of sailing one only needs to go in the shower fully clothed, turn the cold water on, and start tearing $20 bills.
Luigi Semenzato

More sailing humor and sailing wisdom.

School Time

23 February 2004 » In Bay Area, Pursuits » 6 Comments

I am going back to school, 5 years after graduation. A few weeks ago I signed up for two classes – Introduction to Linguistic Phonetics and Introduction to Syntax – through San Jose State’s Open University program. These are the prerequisites for a Master of Arts in Linguistics degree, which is what I am shooting for. In the fall I will enroll for real and become a graduate student.
Why linguistics? Some may say that with my background of computer science going for MBA or MS in Computer Science again makes more sense. Well, I have always been an advocate of studying and working in the areas that you have a passion for. Business degree may be advantageous for career advancement or starting a new enterprise, but somehow I do not feel that it will make me happy.
On the other hand, I have always been fascinated by languages, their similarities and differences, their structure, sounds, flexibility, and ambiguity. Did you know that Japanese has voiceless vowels? That Turkish can form words of 200 letters and longer via agglutinative morphology and thus convey very precise shades of meaning? Why does one language have only three vowels and another twenty-three? Why does “I pronouce you husband and wife” matters when spoken by a person with appropriately vested power, but not by an actor on a stage?
I am fluent in English and Russian, and can read a bit of Norwegian, and even with this limited set there is so much to learn and discover. I am especially interested in the intersection of computer science and linguistics – computational linguistics, which includes fields of speech recognition and production, natural language processing, etc. This field is still largely unexplored and can bring about a multitude of benefits for human-computer interaction.
Why San Jose State University? Financial and time management reasons mostly. All other things being equal, I would probably go for Stanford, but the tuition there is close to, oh, $28,000 a year. Berkeley also has a good linguistics program, but the commute would take approximately 1-1.5 hours. Plus, these schools mostly accept students who are going for doctorate, not masters, degrees. It’s already challenging enough to combine school and work, taking 6 credits hours as I do now. So that leaves San Jose State – it is not too far away and the costs are reasonable. I will re-evaluate the situation after a year or so.
So far it feels strange to have to attend classes, answer “here!” when your name is called, do the homework, and sit in a room full of people most of whom are younger than me. But I love it.

Shaky ground

22 December 2003 » In Bay Area, Work » 4 Comments

Last Friday I got moved into a new cube. I have one all to myself, finally! This morning while setting up the cube I felt the building shake gently – and being used to that from my days at FAST, where the trucks passing on route 128 regularly affected the foundational equanimity of the building – did not pay much attention to it. But, turns out it was a fairly significant earthquake in central California, near San Simeon, about 6.4 in magnitude. Wow, my first quake since moving here.


16 October 2003 » In Bay Area, Reviews » 1 Comment

Last night I went to see the production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the San Francisco Orpheum theatre. Somehow I missed the movie, and have not seen the show performed live before – I just own the soundtrack. The set and lighting were very nice and imaginative. The cast performed admirably, but their singing seemed better than the acting ability. Lawrence Clayton and Natalie Toro were strong as Judas and Mary Magdalene, respectively. However, two of my favorite pieces – “Last Supper” and “Gethsemane” – were not quite up to my expectations. Maybe it was due to sound equipment or acoustics that felt muffled at certain points, but it might just as well be the evidence of the lack of raw emotion invested into the performance. A couple of years ago I attended a special that showcased some pieces from Webber’s career, including “Gethsemane” and I thought that one was particularly sublime, even better than the one on the soundtrack. Still, always good to see a live show infused with enthusiasm and this one definitely had that in abundance.

Paddling time

14 October 2003 » In Bay Area » 3 Comments

So, as mentioned in the previous entry, I went kayaking with a few people on Sunday. We chose Kayak Connection in Moss Landing (Elkhorn Slough), which is about 20 miles from Santa Cruz. The cost was only $30 for up to 4 hours, and you get full gear (paddling jacket, life jacket, spray skirt, etc) with the rental. I kayaked only once before, on the Charles River in Boston, and this was more interesting due to larger waves and more open territory. We also arranged to have our lunch on the water. All in all, a great experience and I hope to repeat it again some time soon. Pictures here.