jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
The point of the trip was to do Bay to Breakers. As advertised, you start a few blocks from San Francisco Bay and then run more or less straight west until you reach the Breakers of the Pacific Ocean.

Only two pictures this time... )
I would do Bay to Breakers again. But there's other races to do too.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
About two weeks before the trip, [livejournal.com profile] wackynephews mentioned a charity event at Pixar Studios. Put on by the Cartoon Art museum, it was to be a day at Pixar. And it was on the Saturday I was going to be in the Bay Area!

Now the cost was quite a bit more than I usually pay for such things - 500 dollars! However, the more I thought about it, the more I figured that this was one of those things I'd regret not doing a lot more than I'd regret spending the money. As I get older and my regrets pile up behind me, I indulge in these things more and more.

So was it worth the money? In the sense that it was for a good cause, yes. For the entertainment provided? Maybe, but only because the time of the creators who did the one hour talk in the middle was very expensive. It was like those charity dinners where people will pay thousands of dollars to hear some politician speak - the chicken dinner isn't why you spent the money.

I took BART across the bay and walked about a mile to get to the Pixar campus in Emeryville. Reaching the site I discovered I was just about the only person who walked it. Everyone else drove their expensive cars to go there. Mostly the other people there were like me - fairly affluent nerds. Some were very affluent indeed, since they forked out for multiple tickets for the whole family. This is what the Technorati do with their money.

I got a few complements on this tee-shirt. I wish I had a smoking jacket to go with it.

So what did i get for my donation? Well for two hours it was mostly wandering around a portion of the main building. I have pictures, but I'll save them for the last part of the post, since they're really not part of my narrative. The main lobby of the main building had numerous murals and statues in it. There was also a gift shop doing roaring good business. I picked up an Incredibles tee-shirt and a coffee table book.

We also got to wander about 1/3 of the way into each of the buildings two wings. No photography was allowed, which is too bad because this was where the really good art was. The east wing was assorted pre-production art for Monsters University. The west wing had assorted personal artwork from the many talented artists who work at Pixar. Most of it had little to do with animated movies. There was sculpture, paintings, a lot of portrait photography. It was fascinating stuff and, as is the usual with such things, made me feel like a fumble-fingered caveman.

One of the things advertised was "seeing Pixar staff at work". This was a misnomer - none of the people with offices in the section we had access to were at work that day. What we did have was a handful of staff doing presentations in the meeting rooms. Sadly, I missed out on those (they filled the rooms fast, and it sort of depended on you being in the vicinity when one of them started.

Next up was the main event - a talk about the tenth anniversary of my favourite Pixar movie - and favourite super hero movie, The Incredibles. The talk was with the director Brad Bird, and a half-dozen of the lead animators/creators. Some of the talk was the usual bits of how it was pitched and made and the impact it had. There was also a lot on the collaborative software that was developed for the movie. Fascinating stuff for this software geek.

Afterwards it was off to another building for drinks, hors d'oeuvres and an auction. You always want free booze at a charity auction - it loosens up the wallet. I set a rather high limit for myself for this, but my one unbreakable rule for auctions is to not bid over your maximum. If it hits that level, stop. No matter what. I followed my rule, but it was so hard. Glad I did though. The two items I wanted were a print of the Parrs in action, and a signed one-sheet of The Incredibles that was very evocative of early James Bond posters. Instead, I bought a reproduction when I got home for twenty bucks.

The whole air of the evening was that of a proper cocktail party for nerds. It felt good, even if I was my usual wall-flower self.

At this point I'd like to say that it must be nice being a dot-com-millionaire. I couldn't believe the price that some of those pieces went for. Even if I had that kind of money (I don't, despite being there), I'd feel down right guilty forking over $10K for these pieces. Were they worth it? For the talent that went into it, and being for charity, yes. And yet, I'd still feel guilty. In the end, I'd have to spend that money twice: once for the piece itself, and once again to the food bank so that I could hang it in my house without feeling like total ass.

Anyway, Pixar put on a nice fête. I quite enjoyed it, and I might consider doing it again if they celebrate the right movie. Brave (or Incredibles 2) would get me in the door. Cars, not so much.

As an aside, I've recently discovered that I effective paid more for the evening then all those rich folk. It's tax deductible, but it's not for this Canadian. Heh.

And now, on to the pictures! )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
After Muir Woods, we decided to go the best Tiki Bar I've ever been to. This was LA's idea - she had done some research and had discovered The Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar at the beautiful Fairmont San Francisco. You can (and should) read it's history here.

I should probably put the pictures behind a cut )

I want to get a bunch more friends to go to SF with me just so we can enjoy this. Lacking that kind of wherewithal, I'll settle for attempting to make a bunch of these drinks at a tiki-themed summer party. If only I knew someone with a tiki bar, who enjoys throwing summer parties and mixing drinks. Oh wait, I do! My happiness over being here? Multiply it by ten to get his happiness.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Friday found us going north to Marin City to pick up LA's old friend AF. from there we went further north to Muir Woods National Monument for a day of hiking.

Our route in Muir Woods was a lot of fun, but tiring. We took the Hillside Trail to where it met Ben Johnson Trail and then Dipsea trail - basically this trail, only we did it counter-clockwise instead of clockwise. Basically seven Km around with a 1000 foot elevation change. not quite a scramble up, but there were numerous portions where the trail was sufficiently steep they had to put in stairs.

Now for lots of nature photos... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
LA and I decided that what we really wanted to do for a longish weekend, was go somewhere different for a foot race. Mostly she did all the planning and making suggestions, while I variously made suggestions, vetoed some choices, and forgot what she'd told me. We settled on San Francisco in May since there was going to be trail races on several weekends, which gave us some options.
Pictures! And touristy stuff!... )
jamesq: (San Francisco)
Part of my tour included a solo walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. As one of the tour guides put it, in language designed to not reveal her meaning to any children present, more people have strolled off this bridge than any other.

Pictures of Golden Gate Bridge, and musings on its grim notoriety... )

There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'Not Today'
jamesq: (San Francisco)
My first full day in San Francisco and I really didn't have a clue what to do. So I opted to walk to Union Square (a mere 1.5 blocks east of my hotel) to see what I could see.

There were a lot of double-decker tour buses there. I opted to do the tour. For $50 you could do any of the four tours, at any pace you wanted (while they were open) for two days. Ok, this seemed like a decent idea so I did it. For bureaucratic reasons I had to go to Fisherman's Wharf before anything else. Boarding the bus I was the last person on after the top filled, so I had to sit by myself in the bottom. Note that the bottom is not good as the windows are completely covered by advertising. Not the best design, but since the buses serve two functions (showing off the sights and getting people to and from the sights) I was OK with it. It did tell me not to dawdle getting on the bus.

On to the bad photos, of which there are many... )

The tours were fun and gave me decent bearings of the city, which would come in handy. However, being tours, they were the white-bread-and-mayonnaise of the trip. Enjoyable enough, but not something you're going to wax poetically about.
jamesq: (San Francisco)
Canadair regional jets are nice. SFO is a well laid-out airport with easy access to Bay-Area Rapid Transit. This means that I went from YYC to SFO to downtown San Francisco with no headaches whatsoever. And Hotel Diva was a short easy walk from the BART station and Union Square.

My room (pictured below) was wee, but cozy. Given this was a retrofitted building that was probably built in the post-earthquake boom, I'm OK with that. It was well appointed, comfortable and very very quiet (I was on the top floor at the very back, so as far away from the street as you could get without being on the roof). There were macaroons waiting for me on my arrival and the staff was always helpful without being intrusive, just the way I like. I would recommend this hotel to anyone, except possibly people with kids, since there's not a lot for kids at the hotel.
photos ahead... )
jamesq: (San Francisco)
I have a bucket list of US cities to visit. The list currently sits at New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Diego. Former list members were Seattle, Las Vegas, and now, San Francisco.

So I've been wanting to visit SF for a long time now, and almost pulled the trigger on it several times. One of the problems is that SF is a very expensive city to visit. However, my financial situation is more secure now than it was in the past. Also, I was generally comparing expenses for city-X with Las Vegas, which is not a rational thing to do. Vegas is, at first glance, a very cheap city to visit - there's lots of cheap flights, and the hotels are (with a little bit of planning) very inexpensive. The problem is that I was making this comparision:

Vegas::flight + Vegas::hotel < Frisco::flight + Frisco::hotel

I should have been making this comparison:

Vegas::flight + Vegas::hotel + Vegas::gambling > Frisco::flight + Frisco::hotel

I spent considerably less on this trip than I would have for an equivalent amount of time in Las Vegas.

Several years ago I went so far as to buy SF for Dummies. I read most of it when I bought it, then stuck it on a shelf, pulling it out only when I was getting the travel itch. Other cities were picked, but I almost pulled the trigger on an SF trip three times before this one. I just looked at the date on my copy of SF4Duh - 2007. Apparently I've been considering this for a long time.

Anyway, this trip was also the result of my getting a bonus at work that consisted of "buy yourself something nice, like a trip, and expense it". Frankly, if they had just given me the cash, I probably wouldn't have used it on a trip to SF.

"So what are you going to do on your trip", a friend asked?
"I might go see some shows, I've booked a ticket for an Alcatraz tour, spend a day on Fisherman's Wharf, walk across Golden Gate Bridge. And I might watch some movies."
"Movies? Why would you go see a movie when you can do that back here in Calgary?"
"My days are mostly full, but I don't have a lot of plans for the evenings. I'm not going to have anyone to hang out in a pub with. I'm not going to go out clubbing. I'm not going to go get rough trade behind a Castro street bar."
"That seems like a suspiciously specific denial."
A few weeks ago I booked the flight, found a hotel and booked my time off. I was now committed and the time, as usual for an approaching adventure, dragged on. Finally, the day came and I was off on my trip. Sadly, I missed a connecting city bus on the way to the airport and my trip became the worst combination of time on city transit and money to a cabby. I was never in danger of missing my flight, but it was not a good start.

Thankfully that was about the only snag I had.


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