Sunday, 31 August 2008

Oakland - nicer than you thought

Today we ventured to Oakland for the Art and Soul Festival. Oakland is a city with a bad reputation, the 21st most dangerous place to live in the USA (see this list and note that Mission Viejo, where we saw that rodeo, is really safe! As long as you're not a calf).

Today, is was great. They'd closed off several streets which meant that, because of the nice American grid layout, there was a huge pedestrianised space with music stages, local food, wacky stalls, etc. We wandered in the sunshine, sampling such delicacies as Oakland-produced Ethiopian honey wine and organic potato salad. We even found some Earl Grey tea.

I will certainly be attending the State barbecue championships this year.

Free baby with every ticket purchased!

San Francisco uniform.

This is Matthew Nathanson on the main stage. The only British band on offer was The Wombats, and they played yesterday...

The crowd was out of control.

A nice Oakland building.

Hannah enjoying herself (she opted not to keep the baby).

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Go Bears!

After the rodeo of last week, today involved another big juicy slice of American culture. It was the first football ("American" - not real football) game of the season, between the Cal Golden Bears and Michigan State, and beforehand it's obligatory to attend the tailgate. This was held in the business school plaza and involved gourmet burgers, weak American beer and lots of people wearing collegiate t-shirts and shouting "Go Bears!"

We didn't stay for the game. Can something that involves more standing around than playing actually count as a sport? Then again, as a fan of cricket, perhaps I shouldn't throw stones.

Waiting for the bus in university village in the sunshine. I had a dream the other night that it rained! I never counted on missing that particular bit of English life.

If you performed a song you got your burger for free. I asked if I could sing "God Save the Queen", and was told it was probably ok as long as I added "Go Bears!" on the end.

Lots of people eating and drinking, in official merchandise.

Jack and Amanda on the free trolly bus they put on for match days.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Swimming in LA

After the exertions of the rodeo (see below) we needed to cool down so headed to James and Gen's club, strictly for village residents, which boasts tennis courts, bowling greens, etc. Unfortunately one of the three swimming pools was closed due to certain unwelcome solids being found in the water, so we dived into the "competition pool".

Three Brits in a pool. The native Californians took to swimming in sunglasses to cut down the glare of our white skin.

The British synchronised diving team...


...failed to win any medals.


Sunday, 24 August 2008

Count 'em out, ride 'em in

Howdee, partners. Today was the day of the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo. We arrived just as the announcer was instructing everyone to pray for the American troops ("if you've never prayed before, stand up tall now...") Then came The Star Spangled Banner. Then lots of men attempted to wrestle horses, calves and bulls into submission.

If you are unaware of the complexities of rodeo sports ("the clock stops when the steer is on his side with all four legs pointing in the same direction"), then you're not alone. None of us was quite sure of the judging, scoring, penalty system, etc. But who cares when grown men are being thrown in the air by crazed animals?

Rednecks get upset when you try to take their photos. This is Jim-Bob.


Hannah is ditching business school to become a cowgirl.

Which country are we in again?

Despite appearances, he's not fully in control of that horse.

This was the between-event entertainment...

Steer wrestling - a sport of subtlety, strategy and dexterity.

Run, little calf, run!

Anti-American sentiment was running high...

Check out the hats!

Ride 'em, cowboy! I shouted that several times.

Breakdancing-with-a-horse was one of the more popular events.

They enjoy it. Honest!

Just like in the westerns, except with corporate sponsors.

Bull riding. This was the last event, and the one that a gladiatorial crowd had been waiting for.

Not sure he meant to do that.

The bull whisperer.

Job done, the bull trots calmly away.

And presumably they don't ride bulls.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Cheesecake in the OC

This morning we flew down to LA to see James and Gen. The Americans don't like taxing anything, so flights are criminally cheap. We'll make sure we plant some trees (or maybe just sit in some) to offset our carbon.

Southern California is hot. The Bay area gets the nice Pacific breezes, which means that when you stand in the shade you can get some relief from the West Coast sun. Down here it's just hot everywhere, with some smog and humidity mixed in.

So what can you do? Go to the mall, which is exactly what we did to spend the $50 Cheesecake Factory voucher I was given by my work when I left.


Hannah peruses the menu of extreme deliciousness.

One mango-rita and one pomegranate margarita.

This is a starter...

...and this is an Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple cheesecake! Creamy Cheesecake Swirled with Caramel, Peanut Butter, Butterfingers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.

This is actually the next morning, as I was too full last night after my avocado egg rolls. Yum!


Friday was the end of "O" Week so all the hard-working students got to go out in San Francisco. Partners were not allowed to go on the bus with them, so a group of us set about protesting - this is Berkeley, after all. Our protest took the form of going out to dinner separately at a Belgium restaurant, and then meeting all the students in a bar afterwards. The entertainment was an 80s band who opened with You Give Love a Bad Name. When they launched into Summer of '69 we left.

Students and "band".

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

In the Bear's Lair

Last night was the first Haas social event of the semester - a trip to a very cheap bar on the university campus. We hung out with the "older" crowd, looking on disapprovingly at drinking games going on in the corner. The youngest MBA student is 24 (a baby!), and the oldest is 38, with a definite skew to the younger side. But then you're never too old to try to recapture your youth.

They call it a pub, but with no sticky floor, smell of stale smoke or grumpy landlord they're not fooling anyone.

L to R: Amanda (Kentucky), David (Somerset), Christine (Chicago - 8 months pregnant!), Hannah (Dorset), Fini (Argentina).

Hannah's aspiration on completing her MBA is to become a barmaid.

The future business leaders of the world. Impressive...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Real first day

It was Hannah's first day at business school proper! This is orientation ("O") week, where the students get assigned to their cohorts of 60 and then subdivided into their study groups of eight, get to hear lots of keynote speakers, and are generally welcomed. The day started with the lecture theatre plunging into complete darkness and then an inspirational video about Berkeley. There was, apparently, a lot of whooping, but Hannah assured me that none of the English contingent (of four) indulged in such unseemly behaviour.

The best bit was all the freebies that got handed out. I suppose "free" is relative given the amount of fees being paid by all attendees, but Hannah returned with a Haas-branded thermal mug, business card case, pen, USB drive, keyring, jelly beans...and after a couple of glasses of wine she even swiped an extra goody bag for me! It really is back to student days.

While she was working hard I was at a "Haas partners' mixer". The student body is 30% women, and the partners are the unsurprising inverse of that. Thankfully six-month-old Logan was there to bring the male numbers up slightly. Most of the partners were "internationals" like me, and I felt deeply uneducated that everyone was speaking English when for most it's their second or third language. Still, after several glasses of the free wine I was discussing architecture fluently in Italian with a nice lady called Marta. She might avoid me next time...

Hannah and Amanda at the Haas first day evening reception. "Heavy appetizers" were served.

Indoctrination begins at home! Our candy-and-T-shirts package for the nephews and nieces has arrived in the UK. I'm sure they'll grow into those tops.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Another trip into SF

Well, it's so close and those sea lions are sooooo cute!

Hannah peruses a nice arty street market outside the ferry building.

Peace zone! Presumably a love zone as well, but I didn't ask.

Hannah enjoys a chicken quesadia at our favourite (cheap) Mexican.

Yep, the sea lions are still there...