Thursday, March 31, 2011

You are Here. (Here, clearly, means Nirvana)

I'm in Oakland for work and called some friends of mine who live in the area, and the guy invited me to meet him at his office for lunch.  Normally, I'm not big on office food.  But he works at Google in Mountain View.  If you don't know about this office, it's called the Googleplex.  And it's amazing.

The buildings all surround a large quad, and while waiting for him there, I noticed I was standing between the sand volleyball court and the lap pool with the Google lifeguard.  And there were all these fixie bikes around in Google colors that employees just rode from building to building and left for someone else to come out and use.  In each of the buildings, there's a room with a coffee machine with beans that grind while you wait, and free Coke and Pepsi products.

And then came lunch.  We walked over a bridge and got to the cafeteria.  Which had all kinds of incredible food.  The food all had descriptions and ingredients.  The ingredients were highlighted green, yellow and red.  Green for healthy, yellow for not so much and red for delicious.  I made my own salad with ingredients I didn't even understand and never are in a normal salad.  I also got a shrimp cocktail shooter, a sausage and halibut wrap and a wonton with steak on it.  I washed it all down with a sage and grapefuit concoction that was freshly squeezed.  Here it is....

My friend worked in an office with 3 other people, all managers.  Well, it's apparently a Yert, because it had a canvas ceiling.  And they had lots of Four Loko, which apparently is necessary for keeping the Google site up and running.  It was easy to see why people are so productive and like working here.  It's because they treat their employees very well and in turn they bust their ass for the company.  It doesn't hurt that they get stock options and as of the closing bell today, their stock was at 581.84.  A video they made of their complex is pretty cool.

The real pleasure from the day was getting to see my friends and their daughter, Taliesin.  (Yeah, its a Frank Lloyd Wright reference, and he dared his wife to name her that)  Friends and perhaps another glass of that sage and grapefruit juice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time Difference is a Bitch

This morning I had a conference call that started at 9AM EST.  I, however, am on Pacific Standard Time.  Which means I had to get up at 6AM to take the call.  Good news is that I could wake up literally 5 minutes before and just grunt as they did roll call.  However my morning wasn't so peachy. 

First, when I travel across time zones, I like to leave my Blackberry on EST, so I know what time my work is happening in.  It also lets me know when it's okay to stop responding to emails from people who don't know I'm on the West Coast.  My IPhone uses Apple magic to determine where I am and adjusts accordingly.  So I set the alarms on both my phones for around 6AM to make sure I made the call.  I'm sure you see where the problem is.  The Blackberry went off at 3AM, and in my sleep-deprived haze, I called in and waited on an empty conference line for about 5 minutes before I realized what I had done . Sonofabitch.

Then, when I was up and on the call, I was in desparate need of some coffee, but couldn't leave the room, because I didn't feel like getting dressed and I'm a lazy person.  So I used the coffeemaker in the room.  It looks like this.  As you can tell, it was made by Wolfgang Puck.  Well, that's a lie.  It was made in China by people who have no idea who or what a Wolfgang Puck is.  He just gave his name and got a check.  So I followed the Ikea-like directions on the front of it and brewed up a cup of coffee for my 90 minute call.  When the cheap plastic beast was done, it beeped and I went to get my coffee.  It looked dark enough.  I added some sugar and milk to guard against the possible poor taste and I took a sip. 

It was godawful.  No, that's not strong enough.  It was fucking terrible.  It tasted like it was brewed through the socks of the Jets Offensive Line.  I'd never tasted warm feet before, but if they were made into liquid form, I'm pretty sure this experience would have covered it.  I couldn't take more than two sips, even though my need for caffeine was dire. I've been on road trips to New Orleans and Omaha through the night and stopped at Mom and Pop gas stations where they poured coffee that looked like pudding.  Drinking that sludge was like drinking that coffee that comes from the shit of rats ( well technically civets), compared to this coffee.  So damn you Wolfgang Puck. 

Thank you for tasting my coffee.  It tastes like New Jersey.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Posting from 30,000 Feet

I have to admit a compulsion to send emails or blog whenever I'm in a vehicle that's traveling.  A bus, or a plane.  In this particular case, it happens to be an Airbus A321 on US Airways.  I was lucky enough to have first class on the flight from DCA to Charlotte, but this leg is packed and I am a lowly Silver elite member, so no dice this segment.  I do however have a seat in 9E, which is pretty cool. 

While US Air does have Gogo Wifi on it's A321 fleet, they do not however have power outlets, meaning that I will run out of juice about halfway through this 5 hour and 35 minute flight.  Boo US Air.  Also, allow me to crap on you for not offering any snacks in coach.  Not even pretzels.  Given that my flight r/t cost about $600, it seems a few starchy grains aren't too much to ask for. 

But still, blogging from the sky is pretty cool.  Talk to you from the Left Coast, my friends.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Salty Banana

Given the amount of news coverage about the Fukushima Power Plant's "near-meltdown", I thought I would spend a little time talking about common misconceptions about nuclear power. 

How We Get Power

Traditional coal-fired plants operate by using coal from the ground as fuel to heat water which then turns into steam and pushes a turbine which creates electricity.  It's dirty and seems old-fashioned and Rube Goldbergesque.  Duke Energy is kind enough to provide a moving picture for you more graphically inclined. 

So nuclear power comes on the scene and it seems space-aged.  Granted, it was all during the 60's and 70's, so that added to it, but surely this was the technology that would leap over coal, right?  Well, nuclear plants provide power by using radioactive rods to provide heat to a pool of water which then provides steam which pushes a turbine.  Seems like a Jetsons beginnng with a Flintstones ending.  Here's the in-depth explanation of this process.  So we're really talking about saving the earth by not burning fossil fuels, which I'm all for, but still disappointed that nuclear power isn't powering my house by some sort of glowing orb. 

Potassium Iodide

There were reports earlier of people in the US who were looking for potassium iodide.  This is a compound that combines potassium and sodium, hence the salty banana, to protect your thyroid from radioactive iodine.  Mostly used for kids.  We give it out to people who live within 10 miles of a nuclear power station in this country, usually.  And some people treat it like the cure for cancer.  Lemme be real. You can eat kelp (seaweed) and get as much protection.  Additionally, this will only protect your thyroid from iodine poisoning, so if you're hit with gamma radiation, it won't do crap.  Also, if you take it and stay in an area of concentrated radiation, your thyroid will be fine, but your face could look like this.

For the Kids

Finally, you may have children and not know how to explain what's happening over there to them, or need to calm their fears.  If this is the case, I'd suggest you not let them watch this Japanese PSA on the disaster for kids.  The first time they fart, they'll start screaming.  Enjoy it. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why yes, there is someone on board who can fly this plane.

This morning, I experienced the marvels of flight.  From the cockpit. After my girlfriend's last surgery, she got me a Groupon for a "Discovery Flight" at the Washington International Flight Academy.  Given the types of planes they have, I'm not sure where the International comes from.  My guess is that most of the staff seems to be Israeli, so maybe that's it. 

I spent 20 minutes on ground instruction, which consisted of a guy putting a laminated picture of the controls in front of us and walking through what they do.  Then it was off to the tarmac and the plane.  We were flying a Cessna 172, which is a single engine, 4-seater.  On the way out, I asked my pilot how long he'd been flying.  He said "3 months" and then we all laughed as he was joking.  He then said "No, just kidding.  Two years." Which I gotta tell you wasn't that much better.  But he was a nice guy. 

So a few things about flying a Cessna....
  • The plane is really simple.  The controls are all knobs and the yoke.  It's the essence of flight.  No computers.  The wind blows you left and you need to turn the yoke right to come back to your heading.  I probably flew the plane as long as commercial pilots normally do, as they just turn knobs for the autopilot except for take off and landings
  • These planes last a looong time.  I saw the pilot manual and noticed that it was made in 1984.  To put that in perspective, Justin Bieber's mother was 10 when this place rolled off the line.  
  • Wind is bad.  In a large plane you fly through clouds and you imagine sitting on them, like some sort of angel from an 80's movie.  In a Cessna, the cloud is not your friend and you end up bumping around a lot.  
  • Cessna's are not built for tall people.  
It was an awesome experience.  They give you a soft sell to getting your pilot's license when you land, which would cost probably around $5,000.  Which is about $4,950 more than I have right now.  But it might be cool one day.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paging Dr. Bombay.....

So my girlfriend had ACL surgery on Friday and I've been playing nurse for the past few days.  I am not a very good doctor.  I'm trying though to be a good helper.  Which mostly includes heating Trader Joe's meals, refilling water glasses and assisting her hop back and forth from the bathroom to the couch to the bed. 

So she had ACL surgery. which takes about 6 months to recover from.  They actually replace the ACL one of two ways.  The first is to graft from your body, usually the patella or the hamstring.  The downside of this is that you're recovering from surgery in two separate places and recovery takes longer.  The second option is called an allograft, which is from a cadaver.  Allyson went with this route, meaning that she has some dead person's body part inside them. 

So that allows us to make up some awesome stories.  Like her knee will soon be possessed by a prisoner from Death Row and will begin killing people.  But only her knee.  The trailer would have her headed down into the Metro on a packed escalator, when suddenly her knee jutted out, pushing some young girl on her cellphone plunging to the bottom of the escalator.  The film would also have her sitting in her basement with a saw in her hand, staring at the possessed knee, pondering the impossible. 

Anyone else have any good ideas about this?  I'll give you a Producer credit when I sell the rights

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


This is Seattle, Washington.  I've now been here three times.  Twice for pleasure and once for work.  Allow me to go over a few things from this city.
  • It rains here.  You knew that.  But you probably didn't know that the rain usually only lasts about 20 or 30 minutes and then passes.  So while its a place to carry an umbrella, it's not some sort of depressing, always raining wasteland. The Boston Globe actually posted instructions on how to build an ark after 14 days of straight rain in my former home.
  • If you come here, and you like cheeseburgers and you might like bacon on your cheeseburger, you must stop at the Red Mill.  They have a stack of bacon.  It looks like this. And it's the most amazing bacon you have ever tasted on another piece of meat.  I wouldn't lie to you.  I promise.  The onion rings are tasty.  Cash only, hipsters.
  • The Space Needle is cool.  But it costs $18 a person.  Save the money.  Instead, hit up the ferry to Bainbridge Island for $7.10 per person round trip and get an awesome view.  I'll post some photos of that when I get home.  But it's way cool. 
  • My favorite bar there is the Bookstore Bar in Downtown.  It's super cozy and they have a great happy hour with full-sized entrees for $5.  Be careful though.  I came here with clients last week and thought I'd buy some drinks to be friendly (note: I was using MY money,  not the company's) and when I searched my pockets through the dull fog the next morning, found a credit card slip for $135.  So it can add up.  I will expound on my cop tip for drinking with lots of friends in another post. 
  • And if you are looking for a place to stay, I highly recommend the Arctic Club, which is actually an old club in downtown that they renovated and now flies under the Doubletree/Hilton flag.  So you get the warm cookie.  The rooms are great and if you're gold or diamond with Hilton, you get free breakfast.  Good times.  And their mascot is a walrus. 
Pictures courtesy of Flickr

Wednesday, March 02, 2011