Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Walking on water

It was three years ago that I first set foot on a frozen lake. A couple of days ago, up in Fort Collins with Wendy's family, I gave it another go. gives a handy ready-reference for what's considered safe on various thicknesses of ice:

  • 3" or less STAY OFF
  • 4" ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing
  • 5" one snowmobile or ATV
  • 8"–12" one car or small pickup truck
  • 12"–15" one medium truck (pickup or van)
According to one knowledgeable local expert I met on my walk, the ice on Terry Lake was about 8", so good enough for a car. Underfoot, though, the creaks and deep resonating twangs made my lake-walk a pretty hair-raising experience, even if in theory completely safe.

From a vantage point off the ice, I took this one in the sunset:

Christmas Trees

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

She Said, He Said

She said:

Hello Isaac,

We recently received your King Bloom Lavender duvet cover and I am afraid we will not be able to replace the duvet cover for you.

Amenity is happy to accept any item that has not been used or washed and if the discrepancy had been found before use, we would certainly be able to help.

Upon review, the duvet cover appears to have been heavily used and washed. Given these circumstances it is company policy that the return cannot be accepted as a manufacturing flaw.

We are truly sorry for any disappointment this may cause. We are due to return your original purchase to you and as a good will gesture, we would like to offer you a choice of any amenity pillow.

Please let me know which pillow you would like to receive and we will make sure they arrive as soon as possible.



He said:

Hi Helen, thanks for getting back to me.

I can assure you that the duvet cover has never been used and has been washed precisely once before it was returned to you---the defect became apparent when spreading the item out after washing, which is the first thing we did when we unpacked the thing. Never at any point has the duvet cover even been on a duvet, although it did sit folded on the floor for a couple of weeks while waiting to be returned to you.

To put it very mildly, I feel wholeheartedly let down by your response. The Amenity Home web site dares to mention "nature's flawless elegance" while our duvet cover, however elegant, was flawed at the moment we bought it. Your proposed good will gesture falls substantially short of Amenity Home's actual moral obligations here, and I will certainly not be salving Amenity's corporate conscience by taking you up on your offer of a compensatory pillow.

In fact you can keep the duvet cover too---please do not waste any resources returning to me a faulty product for which I have no desire. If ever I require a defective duvet cover with a hole in it I'm sure there is a wealth of cheap and cheerful options available to me at my local goodwill store. I was, though, rather hoping that spending significantly more (I paid $378.67, including tax, for this item) might get me a defect-free product from a company prepared to do the right thing and stand behind the quality of their products. I guess not.

I know this isn't your fault personally, Helen, but "disappointment" doesn't come even nearly close to capturing my mood. I am outraged. Please do me the favor of passing on my utter disgust to those in charge at Amenity. The mind boggles at how a "company policy" like this---generating such bad will in a first-time Amenity customer---could possibly make business sense. You can rest assured that for my own part I will be getting maximum value from the $380 cost of my education about Amenity Home by passing on my learnings to friends and colleagues.

I wish you, Helen, a Merry Christmas. Amenity Home, not so much.


After that he uploaded a new old photo:

5624 A

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Amenity Home Suckage

So heads-up, people. Beware Amenity Home, who don't replace faulty products.

Short story: bought an Amenity duvet cover. Got it home, washed it, and found a small hole in it when spreading it out after washing. Sent it back to Amenity, who say that their policy is not to replace items which have been washed.


This thing cost $380 including tax. Pardon me for thinking that for such a price one might expect better than this. Amenity FAIL.

I took this one way back in February 2000. The artist's impression turned out pretty well, but failed to anticipate the Gherkin:

Tate Gallery of Modern Art

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Veggie Bake

Here's a great one for cold winter days. I present to you, Veggie Bake:

1 small green pepper
1 small red pepper
1 medium onion
12oz fresh mushrooms
3 celery sticks
8oz wholewheat breadcrumbs, divided 6/2
6oz mature cheddar, divided 4/2
1 large egg
3 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper

Roughly chop the peppers, the onion and the mushrooms while heating the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the chopped peppers and onion to the pan, stirring gently. After five minutes add the mushrooms and celery, and continue to cook with the heat fairly low until all the vegetables are tender. In all it should take ten minutes or so.

Remove the pan form the heat and stir in 6oz of the breadcrumbs and 4oz of the cheese. Beat the egg with some salt and pepper and add that to the pan as well, stirring and mixing everything together thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a pre-greased baking dish and level the surface with the back of a spoon. Mix the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle this mixture over the top.

Place the dish in an oven pre-heated to 375ºF and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

The is what San Francisco looks like on a cold winter day:


Friday, December 12, 2008

Fall and Winter

Talking of seasons, here's one from Terry Lake in fall

and in winter

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Sudden Chill

At the end of the calendar year, San Francisco seems to get cold out of nowhere and all of a sudden. Like, really cold... and really suddenly. It's strange: last week I was cycling in shorts and a t-shirt, and this week I'm urgently ordering a cord of wood for heating fuel during the winter. A couple of days ago I wore three layers out in the evening for the first time in months. Wendy brought handwarmers and wished for a scarf.

What's going on?

Turns out Wendy and I were brought up in symmetric climates, where the temperature varies in evenly spaced peaks and troughs. By way of illustration: here, courtesy of, are the monthly high and low temperatures in Denver, where Wendy spent her youth:

Picture 3.png
and here are monthly highs and lows in Sheffield, where I grew up:
Picture 4.png

You can see the similarities. Sure, Denver is more extreme on the high side as well as the low side, but the two exhibit basically the same pattern: it heats up for six months, it cools down for six months. Notice how this means that the warmest and the coldest months are a good while apart.

Then there's San Francisco.

Picture 5.png
It starts cold in January and gets warmer and warmer and warmer until about October and then boom---the temperature plummets. The second-warmest month is October and the second-coldest month is December!

Of course, it's all relative. But it's nice to know that there's at least some scientific basis to the perception that winter comes out of nowhere in San Francisco. Brrr.

In other news, the printer is back today and on top form. I'm going hardcopy crazy.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It shouldn't be this difficult

Back at the beginning of the year I bought a new printer. Because I'm a prima donna wannabe-photographer I bought a fancy one, a Canon PIXMA Pro9000:


It's a really good printer. A great printer, in fact.

Or rather it was a great printer until about March, when it pretty much just stopped working and started instead exhibiting "Error 5110". I'd printed probably about 50 sheets by then, and although those were superb prints I still didn't quite feel like I'd really had my money's worth.

"Error 5110" is a known issue with this printer but because the store I'd bought it from had gone out of business and I didn't have the receipt any more, I knew getting the thing working again would involve endless call center telephony and serious persuasiveness. I put it off again and again, the thing sitting there gathering dust, completely inoperable, for nine months. And it stared at me during each one of those nine months, and whispered its price tag.

Enter sabbatical.

And you know what? I was on the phone for 90 minutes today (1-800-OK-CANON). And I did have to lug a 30lb printer to my local Canon service center. But tomorrow, touch wood, I'll have a working Pro9000 again and I'm pretty happy about that.

An hour and a half on the phone, though! On a weekday, during business hours. Who has time for this kind of stuff?


Sunday, December 07, 2008


Wendy teaches 2nd grade. A student at her school brought the following joke to class the other day:

What has legs but can't walk; has eyes but can't see; and has wings but can't fly?
The answer: a dead bird.

I've uploaded quite a few new photos recently. Here's one from a while back round the corner from our house:


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New York Day-After-Thanksgiving

The morning after Thanksgiving we went for a walk up Fifth and back down Madison, watching the crazy-people crazy-shopping in the Black Friday sales (yes, this is the retail occasion on which people get trampled to death). We competed to see who could spot the shopper carrying the most bags (Wendy won: a dude with five bulging carriers; I expected to see more but perhaps it's the recession). After brunch in Chelsea we headed to the airport and back home to San Francisco.

We got upgraded on the way back; a nice end to the trip.

I took this on, well, waddyaknow, Fifth Ave:


New York Thanksgiving

The idea was that going to New York at Thanksgiving would be an exciting and exotic getaway, giving us a chance to sample freezing temperatures at a festive time of year as well as the romance of a big city adventure with just the two of us. Part of the thrill was that we booked the flight just a few days in advance (we got a great deal on United) and we booked a hotel at which we'd never before stayed. I guess that to a middle-aged middle-class highly routinized couple like us, such a trip feels very daring.

The Bryant Park Hotel was great: chilled out, stylish, conveniently located, affordable (thanks Expedia), and with generously sized rooms given all those attributes. I've stayed at The Hudson the last couple of times I've been in New York and the equivalent room there is literally half the size: 150 square feet versus 300 square feet, which includes the bathroom. For reference, a queen size bed alone with a two-foot space around it is 96 square feet. The Hudson is tight in more than one way (and no, there isn't that two-foot space around the bed there).

The Bryant Park Hotel claims that its Cellar Bar is some kind of city hotspot, but even experiencing it only on the night before Thanksgiving one has to conclude that it's reaching a little bit. Jolly fun cocktails and interestingly dressed waitresses, for sure, but probably not where you'd bump into anyone who knew anything about where to be in Manhattan. (Anecdotally, I know nothing about where to be in Manhattan and I was there). Online sentiment, though a little bitchier, would seem broadly to agree.

Waking up Thursday, though, we could from our hotel room window see ice-skaters in Bryant Park---and how deliciously idyllic is that for a cold Thanksgiving morning? We got moving, checked out the parade (a mere two blocks away, thanks to the conveniently located hotel), then walked down to SoHo for brunch. We ended up at somewhere we'd been before, which on the one hand provided some welcome familiarity but on the other hand didn't quite provide enough familiarity for Wendy, who after decades of celebrating Thanksgiving at home with family was understandably struggling a little bit. We went for Thanksgiving dinner that night nonetheless, and found a very nice spot to hang out in West Midtown. We talked about family all night, in honor of the occasion.

The below is not New York. It was taken in Tiburon a couple of weeks ago.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Five Whys of Sabbatical

At work, the five whys is a winner for operational whoopsies. I have recently discovered that it also has other uses.

I made soup yesterday.

  1. Why? - because I had fresh organic leeks in the fridge
  2. Why? - because I popped into the market at the weekend
  3. Why? - because I was taking a stroll in the sunshine
  4. Why? - because I had nothing more pressing to do on a Saturday
  5. Why? - because I'm on sabbatical

Welcome to the Five Whys of Sabbatical. Here's a photo for you too. Zoë sure has a super kitchen.

Zoë's Kitchen

Monday, November 24, 2008

Soup on sabbatical

Here's a Leek Soup for winter evenings.

5 large leeks
10 small potatoes
boiling water
three cloves garlic
a little butter
vegetable stock
salt & pepper

Top and tail the leeks, making sure to leave as much of the green area at the top as possible. Wash, chop into half-inch rounds and place aside in a colander. Peel and roughly chop the garlic, and then sauté in the butter over a medium heat in a large saucepan with the lid on.

After five minutes or so, the garlic should be bubbling lightly in the butter. Rinse the leek rounds in the colander and add, still nicely wet from the rinse, to the garlic and butter. Replace the lid on the saucepan and turn the heat down.

Stir occasionally over a low heat for fifteen minutes or so. While the leeks steam and soften, wash the potatoes and, with the skins still on, chop into quarters. When the leeks are soft (but before they're mushy), add the potatoes to the saucepan and cover the leek/garlic/potato mixture with the boiling water.

Add the vegetable stock, stir well and simmer for 20 minutes or so with the lid on.

When the potatoes are softened through, remove the pan from the heat and blend the entire mixture to a rough consistency. Add salt, add plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and simmer the rich green soup over a low heat.

Serve hot, with fresh bread and perhaps a white fish main course.

San Francisco spoils me. Here's one from the other day:


Sunday, November 23, 2008

New online resumé now actually viewable online

In some kind of publishing mishap, my new resume was somehow not as accessible as it ought to have been. It's now properly published and available at Honestly.

Today's photo, taken a couple of weeks ago at the Alemany Farmers' Market:


Friday, November 21, 2008

Neither desperate nor emergent

It's true, and some have noticed, that my online resume was tragically out of date. And as ever, updating one's resume is the professional equivalent of vacuuming under the bed: usually done only in fairly desperate or emergent circumstances.

My sabbatical is neither desperate nor emergent, so I guess this is the exception: I've updated my resume this evening (at @ang's prompting). In all its Google Docs glory: check it out.

And now that's done I can include a photo I took the other day. Wonderful late afternoon sunshine:

Wendy Walks

Friday, November 14, 2008

Have bike, won't read

Sabbatical is great so far---especially right now in a 77ºF San Francisco mid-November heatwave. Being last week in the UK for my grandmother's memorial was tough, and emotionally draining, but it was great to see my family and spend time with them despite fairly miserable circumstances.

Despite hours spent traveling on airplanes during the last week, my reading list pile hasn't really been dented yet (apart from the Tilghman, which I finished a couple of days ago). Instead I've been riding my bike a fair bit, including a couple of trips around a nice 20-mile local circuit which Wendy discovered.

Today I took some pictures of Mallard Lake along the way:

Mallard Lake #5

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sabbatical Reading Update

So I finished The Goal, but before I could move down my reading list I got a handful of late additions:

I'm halfway through the Tilghman. Can't decide what next.

Taken at work a couple of weeks ago:

Crittenden Sunrise

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cheese and Lentil Savory, redux

Doing my sabbatical commute yesterday I swung by Whole Foods in SoMa on the way home to pick up a few things for dinner. While I was there I also picked up some red lentils to top up the Hepworth stockpile, last week's Cheese and Lentil Savory having depleted it.

The lady behind me in the checkout line (hi Bridget!) saw my basket and asked me what I was going to use the lentils for. She told me she'd always thought lentils would be good to eat but didn't know a good recipe for them. I explained as best I could about my grandmother's dish but ended up just giving her my business card with written on the back. "You can find the recipe on my web site", I said.

I definitely felt a brief pang of Googler cliché. I liked Bridget, though, and I hope she likes the C&LS; she said she'd make it one day. It got me thinking about memes and genes, one's legacy and the people one meets.

I took this the other day, on a walk with Wendy:


Sabbatical Commuting

As it turns out, the commute to sabbatical is about as punishing as the commute to work. Wake up at 6.30am, half an hour later than usual. Snooze and listen to the radio for half an hour, 10 minutes longer than usual. Get up, and by 7.10am you're on your bike heading north. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge heading out of the city at 7.40am, and at 8.40am you're in Tiburon boarding the 8.45am commuter ferry to the San Francisco Ferry Building. By about 9.30am you've arrived back home ready to start the day.

The below is a photo from the ferry, not of the ferry.

Rat Race

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheese and Lentil Savory, in memoriam

My grandmother was born during World War I and had her first child during World War II. In England at the time there was food rationing, which believe it or not continued after the war ended: in 1946 bread rationing began, and in 1947 they started rationing potatoes. In 1949 my mother was born.

Feeding a family was tough in those days: how to make sure, under ration control, that one's children received proper nutrition? Parents were inventive, and my grandmother started cooking a recipe which has since become a tradition in my family: cheese and lentil savory.

8oz mature cheddar
8oz red lentils
1 large onion
3oz breadcrumbs
a little oil
boiling water

Chop the onion finely and sweat in the oil on a moderate heat. When the onion turns transparent add the lentils and stir well. Then add about half a pint of boiling water and turn down the heat to simmering level. Simmer with lid on. Every five minutes check and stir, ensuring no sticking on the bottom of the pan. Continue adding small quantities of hot water and stirring it in until the lentils are cooked (soft) and don't absorb more water. Take off the heat and stir in the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs, and some parsley if you have it. Put it into two greased dishes. Leave one to cool (freeze it for another time) and put the other in the oven at 200ºC/400ºF for 25 minutes or until going crunchy round the edges. Serve hot.

The secret was, of course, that lentils can keep dry and good forever in one's larder; you could get away with slightly moldy cheese; and the bread could be a little stale and nobody would notice. The perfect wartime recipe.

Every now and then I cook C&LS for Wendy and me---a gentrified version, admittedly, with moldless cheese from Whole Foods and fairly fresh bread. Last night was one of those nights, and this morning I woke up to learn that my grandmother had just died.

In memoriam, Helen Willis.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Also while on sabbatical

As well as reading books, I plan to

  • tidy the garage
  • clean the windows
  • take lots of photos

Here's one I took today with my new camera:


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sabbatical Reading

I'm taking sabbatical from work for the last two months of this year---hurrah! Something I'm hoping to do a lot is read; I've accumulated a large stack of unread books on my nightstand (for the English: that's a bedside table) and I need to catch up. Here's what lies before me.

Reading at the moment:

  • The Goal - despite the moronic and desperately tacky marketing and cover, actually so far a good book full of allegorically packaged business insights.

Top surface of nightstand:

Next nightstand shelf down

  • The Road to Reality - any book subtitled "A complete guide to the laws of the universe" is going to take a while to get through, I feel.
  • Against Depression - as a depressive, I appreciate Kramer's work. I liked his concept of "cosmetic psychopharmacology" and even own the domain
  • Watching the English - deep but trashy but amusing but deep but trashy. I've been trying to finish this for years.
  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb - my ex-boss recommended this to me before just before I left my last job. He raved about it but it's 886 incredibly dense pages. I get daunted.
  • Dive into Python - bought before I had my kick-ass one-day Google training on Python. It's there when I feel the need.
  • The Stories of English - file this under "fascinated by linguistics". Plus I'm a fan of David Crystal generally.
  • Secrets and Lies - of course like me you read his blog. The books have a similar appeal. Did you know he works at British Telecom? Weirdness!
  • Python in a Nutshell - a freebie from Google long long ago. I've never written anything serious in Python but I'm certainly Python-curious.
  • Designing Interactions - Amazon tells me I bought this 16 months ago. Rats.
  • Effective C++ - Google freebie. I've never programmed C++, which probably makes me uniquely odd for someone who started coding 20 years ago. I don't think I'll ever feel the urge to use the language, but studying it would surely be interesting.

Bottom shelf of nightstand

Monday, October 06, 2008


I noticed this example of an incredibly practical outlook on the animal kingdom a few years back in Fort Collins, CO. Of course it makes you wonder "HUMANS: Use: ...?"

Pig Utility

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Green Card, Redux

I guess the video says it all. Hurrah.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Green Card

I went for my "Adjustment of Status Initial Interview", otherwise known as the Green Card interview, today. This is indeed the time, like the movie, when one takes along photos of oneself with one's spouse in all sorts of places over the years, and one gets told if one's marriage is real or not.

And then, if you and your loved one can provide suitable proof that you're both gainfully employed and appropriately immunized, you can move on to the next hurdle: weeding out the Nazis, the polygamists, the Communists, the prostitutes, the drug traffickers, those unpunished undertakers of moral turpitude, and anybody intending to engage in "any activity a purpose of which is opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States, by force, violence, or other unlawful means". Oh yes, you have to swear under oath that you're not an evildoer; they take this stuff pretty seriously.

We went through questions about how we met, when we got married, why we chose Healdsburg for our nuptials, and what out plans are as a couple. We produced birth certificates, marriage certificates, degree certificates and junior school gymnastics certificates. Passports and pictures; tax returns and tenancy agreements; forms and pro-formas. I-130, I-485, I-693, I-797, I-94.

And don't forget Supplemental form to I-693.

After all of this, believe it or not, our interviewer says that he wants to approve the Green Card application but can't because his computer system is down. Instead, he's going to formally mark our case as "pending further review" and approve it later on. Accordingly, he presents a piece of paper with a multiple choice form where "Further Review" is checked, along with the box "Your case has been continued for the reason(s) checked below". Failed at the final hurdle! Aaargh!

Luckily, the attorney (thanks Jennifer) points out that in such limbo I can't travel, and perhaps he can help a bit more, so the guy goes away to see what he can do. Half an hour later, he comes back with another piece of paper, similarly officially marked "I-485 Adjustment of Status Interview Results"---and again with two boxes checked. This time, though, they're labeled "Your case has been continued for the reason(s) checked below" and "Congratulations, your adjustment of status has been approved".

OK, so not quite the emphatic and conclusive result I was hoping for... but I do at least somewhat expect the Green Card to show up in the mail in the next few weeks. Hurrah!

In other news, I took this in the Mission a while back:

Merlos Imports & Flowers

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's been a while since I posted, so I thought I'd break the silence by uploading a photo. This was taken a couple of years ago up at Wendy's parents' house. That's my nephew!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Escaping the crowds

Day 8 in Santorini was pretty much the last day of the honeymoon: we were due off the island on a 7am flight the next morning. Faced with a crowded and crazy Fira, we decided to hike over to the next place to the south, Pyrgos.

Pyrgos is on a hill. It's five miles from Fira. It was 100°F. We were very sweaty when we arrived.

Pyrgos, though, as it turns out, is a very lovely little village with some beautiful buildings. It was super-quiet, exactly as you'd expect a little Greek village to be in the middle of a summer day. We wandered around for a little while, visited the tiny monastery, had a coffee in the village square, and then a little lunch in a tavern on the way back to Fira. All the way we were steeling ourselves for the anticipated horrific impact of the return.

It wasn't as bad as all that. We snuck back to the hotel, skulked for a while, and again escaped the town to Firostefani for dinner. Here's a photo from the way to the Kasteli in Pyrgos:


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wrong town, dufus

Day 7 in Santorini was time to move to Fira, the main town on the island. We'd planned some time in a separate town to get a feel for other areas of the island, but we were both reluctant to leave Oia. When the time came, it was the standard hostage-exchange scenario: this time with the Canaves Hotel Oia handing us over to the Cosmopolitan Suites Fira. It went without a hitch.

Fira was a bit crazy. We'd become so accustomed to the laid-back, relatively quiet, oh-so-civilized Oia that an insanely tourist filled commerce-a-palooza was a bit of a shock to the system. Fira was definitely that and more. We'd been given a tip that "Nick's Tavern" was the place to go, a hidden and authentic gem, so we had a bit of a look around for that... but after an hour or so of wandering we gave up and settled for "Nick the Greek's Bar" for a snack and a drink. After that we retired to the hotel---to regroup and to settle on a strategy to enjoy ourselves in this frazzled town.

The hotel was actually very nice indeed. Right in the center of Fira, so very handy, but very small and somehow secluded. Our room was fabulous, the pool was lovely, the view superb (astonishingly untrammeled by hordes of tourists), and the setting very picturesque. We skulked there for the rest of the day.

In the evening we went out for dinner and tried to head away from the crowds. North of Fira is the much smaller town of Firostefani, a short walk away; we ended up in an Italian restaurant having the most superb pizza for what might have been 1,000 miles or more. For those planning travels, note for your records that this was the very same restaurant described by some dimwitted online reviewer as "under the windmill at the top end of town" in Oia. Wrong frickin' town, englishchris. Thanks for wasting our time the other night.

I took this at the hotel. Nice place.

Couple in pool

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ammoudi Again

Day 6 in Santorini was our last full day in Oia, and we decided on another trip to the beach. We made it to the bay of Ammoudi by about lunchtime, and had another dip in the med before getting a snack at a cafe by the sea. The waiter was from Slovenia, spoke perfect Greek and broken English, wore aviators and a pink straw Stetson, but served a mean retsina. I took this snap of Wendy while we waited for our salted fish.

Wendy in Ammoudi

Monday, August 25, 2008

Musée d'Orsay

Day 5 in Santorini we didn't really do much. Here's a picture from 13½ years ago by way of consolation. I always liked this shot.

Musee D'Orsay

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well done, nature

Day 4 in Santorini we decided to go down to sea level and check out the med. We'd been out for dinner the night before and bumped into a couple from Sheffield ("a little town in the north of England; you probably wouldn't have heard of it"), both of whom heartily recommended the Bay of Ammoudi at the northern tip of the island. We figured we'd give it a go.

A reminder for those following along at home but not quite as well as you should: Oia is 700-1,000ft above sea level, atop cliffs looking over the sea. That means that to get down to the sea you need to find a way down those cliffs... and waddyaknow they have a whole bunch of rocky steps leading down to Ammoudi beach. Perfect for keeping most of the hoi-polloi away; also perfect, as it turned out, for those wanting an intense quadricep workout.

We swam in the med down at the bottom, which was... howdoyousay... invigorating. After splashing around for a while we got some lunch (and a bottle of lovely retsina) to fuel our climb back up to town-level again, which gave us just enough time to head back to the hotel, change, and come back out to see the sunset

Santorini is famous for sunsets, of which you can find about 90,000 pictures on Google. We were expecting quite the spectacle, then, and it was indeed rather lovely. Oddest of odd things, though: when the last glimmer of orange sun had disappeared beyond the horizon, the crowd which had gathered to watch erupted in spontaneous applause. Applauding sunsets? Congratulating nature on a job well done? Do these people clap at flowers, cheer trees and give standing ovations to majestic mountain ranges?

All very unexpected. I took this photo on the way to the great event.

The Caldera

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hostages in Oia

Day 3 in Santorini was our time to depart the Katikies Hotel and head on to the Canaves. We loved the first hotel so much by now that we waited until the very last minute to leave, reading by the pool until early evening.

When time came to finally depart, the hotel staff asked us about our "onward travel plans" and if they could assist: taxi, boat, plane, whatever. We explained that we would probably be fine under our own power since we were going just to the Canaves up the road. "Oh! In that case let us call them and have them send their bellboys to collect you and your luggage!"

There followed a terse telephone call in Greek, and then two bellboys from the first hotel turning up in the lobby and taking us and our bags to the street. By the time we got there, already there were two smartly dressed figures dressed about ten yards away... waiting. Wendy and I were pointed in their direction, and encouraged to walk with our bags the few steps towards them. Just like a hostage exchange, with orders barked in a foreign language we were passed from the custody of camp Katikies to camp Canaves.

The Canaves folk were very hospitable captors, though. We got a lovely mini-suite setup with (actually rather perilous) a stepladder from the main room to the bedroom above. Again a little balcony, this time looking onto the sea but also the town of Oia clinging to the cliffs. Wendy took this photo of me that evening:

Isaac in Oia

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Greecey Breakfast

We woke up on day 2 of the honeymoon to a wonderful breakfast served on the balcony outside our room. Overlooking the Santorini caldera, and essentially a large mediterranean lagoon, it was a gloriously luxurious start to the day.


After breakfast begun what soon became the pattern of the vacation: reading by the pool, a little swim, a little walk, lunch, a longer walk, another swim, more reading, nap, a quick swim, shower, dinner, quick walk, bed. In that order.

Oh, and then wake up and have a delicious Greecey breakfast looking at the sea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's a long way to Santorini

It's a long way to Santorini. No, really. According to Google Earth, it's 6,930 miles as the crow flies from San Francisco (SFO) to Thira (JTR). That's one seriously dedicated crow! Somewhat surprisingly, stopping off in London (LHR) and Athens (ATH) takes you a mere 69 miles out of your way, for a total of 6,999 miles (clearly the Greeks and the Romans knew how to position their cities for optimal air travel from the West Coast). But enough said; it took us a while to get there.

On arrival, though, awesomeness. Sunday morning at 7.40am we arrived at the Katikies Hotel in Oia at the north tip of the island. We expected a roll of the eyes and a gruesome wait---after 15 hours of traveling---for a 4pm check-in or whatever. Not so! Sparkling wine, breakfast by the pool, a tour of the hotel, and imminent room-readiness were what in fact greeted us. We couldn't have been happier.

It's quite the place. Santorini rises out of the sea atop 700-foot cliffs, and the towns cling to the edges of the island spilling down said cliffs like a viscous liquid. The Katikies is very much a "spilling down the cliff" hotel, with 95 steps from our room (a little way down the cliff) to the lobby (higher up the cliff) and another 15 steps up to the streets of Oia. Makes for a great infinity pool, though, and some nice photos.

Day 1 we rather just hung around and took it all in. Honeymoon style.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Spent the weekend in New York, with Wendy a grateful guest at Craig and Hannah's wedding. Had a fantastic time, met new friends, and got a whole bunch of photos.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

We had a lovely walk up Potrero this morning. We went to Aperto for brunch.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Busy weekend. We went to the Farmers' Market,


Wendy got a new haircut

Wendy's new haircut

and we bought flowers

Blue Flower

Monday, April 28, 2008

Just posted another set of photos---this time from yesterday's walk in the Mission. What a super-colorful place we live in.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I found this pretty amazing: a video showing Walmart's spread across the States.

This weekend I was "tagged" by my mother, believe it or not. For the record, here are the rules:

  • Link to the person that tagged you (in my case Sue)
  • Post the rules on your blog
  • Write six random things about you in a blog post
  • Tag six people in your post. Let each person know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
  • Let the tagger know your entry is up

the fourth of which I shall eschew in the true spirit of the shy and retiring

Six random things, though, I can't resist:

  1. A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation through a Japanese interpreter
  2. I've been married for six months
  3. I'm a non-immigrant non-permanent resident of the United States
  4. I listen to Any Questions whenever I can
  5. I'm a fan of the phonejacker
  6. I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

In other news, I took this photo yesterday:


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wendy and I went to the Cesar Chavez parade yesterday. Or rather, we stood outside our house and watched it go by. A parade in the Mission wouldn't be complete without lowriders, and this one didn't disappoint. I took this photo:


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Did you know...? I share stuff on Google Reader and you can

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'm really proud of this one:


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

As if by magic, no sooner do I put a new Photoset on Flickr than the same shows up in the portfolio section of the site. I swear it's almost supernatural. As well as taking those lovely pictures in Yosemite last weekend, I also snapped this one from up on Billy Goat Hill not long ago:

San Francisco Skyline

Sunday, March 23, 2008

So not only is the migration to Flickr now very much underway, I've spent a sad and lonely wifeless weekend hooking up the portfolio section of the site to Flickr as well. Javascripty RESTful goodness, people! What with the Python class I took at work last week, I've spent more time coding in the last few days than in the previous few quarters. I don't think I miss it.

Here's one I took, gosh, nearly six years ago. Now excitingly revitalized in Web 2.0 stylee:


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

OK, so I've finally decided on Flickr for photos. Finally. This time for real. I'm putting everything up there, including recent pics from Skipalooza.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

OK, so waking up at 5.30am facing a 750-mile drive home isn't the most pleasant thing ever. But the experience? Especially for a Brit like me (in England you pretty much couldn't drive that far in a straight line without ending up in the sea) it's pretty breathtaking.

Departure from Park City, UT, 6.15am. Sunrise in Salt Lake City, UT (40-mile mark). Breakfast in Wendover, NV, just over the state line (150-mile mark). Gas in Elko, NV (260-mile mark). Quick stop in Mill City, NV (population 28, 410-mile mark), followed by lunch in Truckee, CA (580-mile mark) and more gas. Arrive home in San Francisco (766-mile mark) at 5.45pm local time, about 13 hours after we began.

And the whole way---across mountains and salt flats and praries and deserts and more mountains and rocky valleys and barren hills and finally to lush and glorious Northern California; the hugest and most unimaginable vast expanse of it---you simply cannot fail to be in awe of the pioneers who made the journey over months rather than hours, with no idea of what they might find. The romance and intensity is palpable.

Even being back here in San Francisco for just a few hours, though, I can fully appreciate why they were happy to settle here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

On vacation at the moment. Still switching. Still twittering. Now posting photos on flickr:

Monday, February 11, 2008

I've bought a Mac! W00t!

I'll be back here a lot, but see also my new blog Switchy McSwitchenstein.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I've been wanting to post for a while the reading which Andrea did at our wedding. It's from Corelli's Mandolin:

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.

I've been madly busy (sort of) migrating my portfolio section to Picasa Web Albums. So far I've done

with more to come! Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I can't explain my finding lolcats so charmingly amusing. Here's a super recent one:

funny pictures
and actually I really like this early one too.

Back yesterday from a week in England, where it is surprisingly more sunny than it is here in San Francisco. Matt and Mary are in town this weekend; nice to have them back in California. Matt brought back from China an electric beckoning cat for us: in fact the exact model linked. Due to some inscrutable malfunction it doesn't work but it does helpfully explain on the box:

One NO.5 battery for praviding the power, enabling to automatically beckon the hand for months, setting it at any position, never be offected by the lights.

When it is in the initiative operation, please insert the fitted NO.5#1.5Vbattery into the bottom of the treasure-beckoning cat according to the inscribed polarities. Then it can work immediately. The hand beckoning will automatically enter the stable position for several minutes

Inside attaching poly luck-beckoning lyrics, sticking them for immediate realizations.

Inside attaching several self-filled out creative and catchy phrases' lable paper

If finding that the hand-beckoning stops swinging, please change the same battery with type number

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 6, December 29, was our last full day in Puerto Rico. It started off with an early morning wake-up in The Great Escape, appropriately to make our Great Escape from the place. The method: light aircraft.

Very light aircraft, in fact: so light that they arranged the seating according to the passengers' weight, to balance the plane.

After landing back in San Juan we took a cab into Old San Juan to see what it's all about. Very nice, is what! Narrow cobbled streets and lots of colors; very colonial and very cool. We saw San Francisco, too.

Photos from the day are available online.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On day 5 in Puerto Rico we woke up at the Inn on the Blue Horizon and after breakfast walked along the beach to Esperanza.

After a while there, we wandered back to the Inn and hung out for the rest of the day before heading to our next stop, which unexpectedly turned out to be the Great Escape Inn up the road. That was a pretty extraordinary place.

Photos from day 5 in Puerto Rico are available online.

Friday, January 04, 2008

We woke up early on December 27 so we could wave goodbye to the evil resort and get a cab to Fajardo, where we'd catch a ferry to Vieques.

After a long wait, another long wait, wifely seasickness and then a crazy cab ride we ended up at the Inn On the Blue Horizon in southern Vieques, where I took this gem:

The rest of the photos are also available online.