Wednesday, November 11, 2015

San Francisco Weekend 2015

Last week, C and I went to San Francisco ostensibly to play laser tag with geeks in an abandoned hospital on an uninhabited island. What actually happened was much stranger.
First, we decided that flying commercial was passe and instead, one sleepy uber ride later, hitched a ride in a friend's ultra-shiny DA42, where twin G1000s did 99.5% of the work. The flight up was a smooth ride at 6500 feet, taking in Santa Barbara, Vandenberg, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, etc, before descending to land at Hayward.
A quick ride into town confirmed our worst fears - we'd literally missed the boat to the uninhabited island and I'd forgotten my swimming trunks. Instead we wandered south along the Embarcadero until we found a science fair in a baseball park where my old geology friend S was brainwashing small children about obsidian.
We checked into our hotel before returning to the wharf to catch our laser tag buddies on their way back. One fellow ran a LIDAR startup, had a few houses and a plane subscription, and once flew his helicopter just to test it - yet to schedule a lesson with a CFI.
Always pressed for time, we headed for dinner with friends (A and A) in Hillsborough, eating a literally staggering quantity of excellent SE Asian fare. Back in SF we watched another friend (L) in a circus performance where we played the part of the tech crew, adjusting lights by singing (as a group) a set of oohs and ahs. The night was still young so we headed to a series of bars with yet more friends (S and L), swapping stories of flying near misses and dome construction.
That evening we determined that ditching the commercial flight north had so incensed Southwest that they cancelled our return flight, so I found a couple of cheap flights on skiplagged and we once again wielded our credit cards with extreme enthusiasm.
The following morning we skipped dinner and shot across town to one of the S's place, dodging an extraordinary fire that had popped up along the way. We piled into a zip car and took the 280 to Santa Cruz, where we infiltrated a super-secret (hardware) hacker illuminati meeting, before heading back toward the peninsula.
S and C dropped me near San Jose airport, where I caught up with fellow Australian expat D, discussed userspace technical innovations, new approaches to moving large quantities of data, and potential travel ideas. Once at the airport I took a powernap in the lounge, then flew back to LA, photographing five distinct layers of clouds between the surface and space. Back in LA I found a new way to get from the airport back home, where I reminded myself what sleep was.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Adventures over the last few weeks

Two quick notes from the front!

Apparently some rock climbers are discouraged by moisture. The remains of the Caltech rock climbing team arrived at Yosemite National Park very early on Saturday, pitched camp, and dug in. Between then and leaving 30 hours later, the rain let up for a maximum of about five minutes. My partner C and I headed out on Saturday morning and hiked the Panorama Trail-4 Mile Trail loop, enjoying clouds, waterfalls, torrents of mud, lightning, views of the valley, wet-looking rodents, confused deer, thunder, and the odd looks I got wearing my trusty sandals. That evening we were entertained by some drunk Texans who (importantly) had a functional camp fire. The following night was continuous stormy - at times the lightning was frequent enough to read by - and thunderclaps sent sprays of leaves down onto my tent, which endured its first rain/endless torrential downpour with considerable stoicism. Sunday morning the face of Glacier Point had several waterfalls, we folded the tent (half covered in splashed mud) and took our Oatmeal a la Jetboil in the meadow below El Cap, to which at least four portaledges were still attached. We detoured via Nelder Grove, taking shelter from a downpour in a hollow under one of the larger Giant Sequoias that live there. I drive us home, learning to drive stick on the way.


One week later:

Turns out finishing your PhD is a great way to find time to have more adventures. Last weekend C and I climbed Mt Baldy in an ultimately ill-fated attempt to get altitude sickness. Finger pulse oximeter in hand we climbed Devil's Backbone to the summit, ate our sandwiches, took photos. Unfortunately, our legs were too sore to run laps at the summit and depress the SpO2 enough to feel terrible. In a few weeks we'll try the same at San Jacinto, perhaps we'll have better luck.