Thursday, 30 April 2009

To those about to rock

Next week it's the Haas talent show, where the MBAs prove there's more to them than razor sharp intellect and titanic ambition.  Information about the event is scarce, but there's at least one opera singer and a comedy troupe taking part.

Elad decided that there was also need of some ROCK, and so has pulled together a group of the most talented musicians the East Bay has to offer.  And they're letting me play the bass (as long as I stand in the dark bit at the back of the stage with a hat on).

We've been working up a few large tunes over the last week, and with two practices to go we're in good shape.  Keep your eyes on the blog for some video proof in the coming days...

Elad rips it up with some heavy distortion.

Adam lays down a fat backbeat.  Rock 'n' roll.

Where have you been?

Sorry.  After post-Mum-leaving depression and various other things like my blog going wrong (yes, my fault) I've been a bit behind in posts.  So see below for lots to get yourself updated.

Together with Dana, Meredith, and various other MBA students I've also been working on a website for a Haas-related charity called Cycles of Change, a volunteer run bike shop that does lots of amazing things with its local community - selling, fixing, organised rides, earning bikes through community service...

If you want to see how work is coming along then take a look here.  Be warned - things are still rough, ready, and unformatted, but we're getting there!

Take me to the water

Have I mentioned how awesome California is?  Today I was reminded of that fact when Dana and I made our way to Marin Municipal Water District in Marin County.

It's basically a few reservoirs and a dam or two, but instead of just leaving it as that the local authorities decided to turn the place into one huge recreational park.  You can fish, hike, bike, ride a horse, etc. on over 130 miles of maintained trails.  This place is like the Lake District, only just up the road and it doesn't rain all the time!  

They don't even bother to advertise it, but leave it as one of the 55 regional parks around here that you might happen to chance upon.  We managed to cover almost 12 miles - so 118 to go - seeing only a handful of bikers, walkers, a baby deer with its mummy (Bambi!) and, most excitingly, the elusive Californian banana slug.  See the awesomeness now?

A banana slug!  And he was coming right for me!!

Lakes, trees, paradise.

Dana admires the view...

...which is impressive.

Look closely and there's SF, the Bay Bridge, and even a tiny bit of the Golden Gate.

Billy goats gruff.

A genuine waterfall!  It's just like in the Bounty adverts.

More lake, sunshine, etc.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

A little more wine

At the Haas wine tasting we learned that our local Solano Cellars wine shop was doing a "Super-Natural" afternoon of organic and biodynamic wines.  A group of us decided to wander over, especially when the words free-if-you-say-you're-from-Haas were spoken.

It was an interesting selection, the strangest of the bunch being a white wine where the maker dropped the grapes into big fibreglass tanks and left them for a few months before pouring what came out into bottles.  It smelled like dessert wine and tasted like vinegar.  "It's one you have to get used to," the shop owner said, before telling us that it was $78 a bottle.  It was back home and back to the box wine after that.

Or free.

Keep the good stuff coming!

Look, it's Elliot without his kids during daylight hours!  Wow.

Fiona and Dan, Kiwis both, patriotically complain that nothing's as good as the NZ stuff (they're right).


Friday, 24 April 2009

A little wine

The Haas Wine Club, the most important student organisation in Berkeley, has been a little quiet of late.  But today they came back impressively with a blind tasting.  Two Chardonnays, two Pinots, and two cheeky Cab Sauvs were poured from hidden bottles.  The challenge was to tell which was the most expensive.

One bottle of each pair was from the $10-$12 range, and the other around $20-$25.  It was fairly easy to tell which wine was which, and the biggest challenge of the night was admitting which one you liked best.  Hmmmm.

Then again, in my world $12 buys you five litres of wine. 

The left one.  No, the right one.  Oooooh!

Thursday, 23 April 2009


In what is fast becoming a weekly event, Dana and I waved Amir and Hannah off to school and set out to find some good walking in and around Berkeley.  Today we headed to Wildcat Canyon, a small regional park just north east of here.  Its rolling hills offered a less daunting challenge than the extremes of last week’s trip.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t exciting!  As well as some dangerous-looking wildlife (a small snake) the parks police helicopter buzzed us before landing in a nearby field.  Then we got lost.  Then we found our way again.  Not even the fact that we forgot our jelly bean emergency rations slowed us down, as we covered eleven miles up hill and down dale.  Impressive!

Mirror Lake.

It's rough country around here.

England's mountains green.

Looking down on Richmond.

Dana and me at the top of (another) mountain.

Dana surveys the view.


P.S. Happy birthday Dad!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Goodbye, don't cry

So my Mum and Sheila have left.  I drove them to the airport today in our borrowed car and portered them to the Premium Economy check-in desk.  There was a queue there.  ”Too many people are travelling Premium Economy these days,” grumbled Mum, who will obviously be travelling First Class next time she makes the trip.

Their flight was delayed by two hours.  No matter - we grabbed a final cappuccino and I got my crying out of the way before I came back to Berkeley.

So thank you to both of them for entertaining Hannah and me, treating us to trips out, meals, and most of all their company.  Come back soon!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Cherry Blossom

San Francisco is the place to come for parades.  Every month another one comes along, from Chinese New Year to St Patrick’s Day.  Today it was the turn of Japantown to host their Cherry Blossom Festival.

Unluckily they’d picked the hottest day of the year.  Us frail British sweltered in the shade, sweating even more as we watched those in the parade struggle by playing drums, carrying floats, and generally doing things that should not be attemped in 30C+ heat.

Miss Cherry Blossom herself.

Drummers enjoy the sun.

Strange disembodied head that the boy scouts twirled at every opportunity.

Queen Anat is happy with her elevated position.

More drummers.

You know you’re in Japantown when…

The grand finale.  It was actually the full moon festival.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Beach combing

Today Albany beach decided to celebrate Earth Day a little early with a clean-up, a guided nature walk, and some self-created art thrown in.  As heavy beach users (although not ones that drop litter, I'd like to add) Dana and I thought we should lend a hand, as did Guy, Anat, Daphny, and Noozie the dog.

Everyone's organised...ish.

Dana, Guy, Noozie, Daphny, and Anat are all ready to clean.

Dana deposits the first piece of rubbish found!  Yay!

My work of beach art, the ephemeral nature of the flowers reflecting and defining the simultaneously destructive and creative power of the sea shore.

Elliot's birthday

Elliot has officially left his late-twenties.  Today he turns 35, and so last night was his party.  A quiet affair, a few drinks with friends?  No!  This was a party business school-style, with guests divided into teams and long, complex lists of challenges and tasks handed out.  Most activities involved approaching strangers and talking to them (having English people on your team was therefore a distinct disadvantage).

After some fevered dashing around Berkeley we realised that co-ordination was the key to multiple points for everyone (this was obviously the lesson of the game!) and so a furtive rendezvous was set up at the infamous Hotsy Totsy.  Balloons were exchanged, signs in the toilet filmed, and strangers - who are always more approachable in a bar after you've drunk some beer - were roped in.  Then it was all back to Elise and Elliot's to argue about who had performed each task to the letter of the law.  I crept off to bed at that point, confident that my team had won...just like everybody else.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it.

It's not a party without balloons!

Eran and I do headstands at Haas, gaining valuable points.

And Fiona gets chalked out...

One of the challenges was to get a photo of another team, hence their unwillingness to pose.  Dana's hair looks nice from the back, though.

More points for displaying a "free-standing mohican".  Extra surely for picking the bald member of the team to perform this.

Pete eyes up his challenge - feeding someone three marshmallows in three seconds.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Cal Day

Competition between universities is tough.  Hence the Days at Haas event for prospective MBA students that I got to photograph a few weeks ago, and today's Cal Day 2009.

This event is mainly for undergraduates, and possibly even more for their parents.  Tours of student accommodation, information about dining options, and repeated statements that Berkeley does not condone underage drinking (what's your first degree for?!) graced the campus.  There were also plenty of activities to keep young and old entertained and convince them that California is the place to take your education to the next level.

First up was the Cal Band banging out the "fight songs" and other tunes from American football matches.  We moved from there to riding a Segway, then back via OskiLand to the library.  We finished with the Cal Spirit Rally (the band again, accompanied by permanently-smiling cheerleaders) before Dana and I checked out the Guitar Hero tournament.  We slunk away once we realised we were at least 15 years older than everyone else there...

Welcome to Berkeley!  Normally it's less crowded.

The band arrives...

...and proceeds to entertain us!

Hannah listens carefully to the Segway safety talk.

And she's off!

Dana's done it before.

I want one!

Amir tried to calculate how far he could get on it before someone caught him.

Amir, Hannah, Mum, Sheila, and Oski.

Amir and I fit in a quick bit of study in the main campus library.

The rally commences.

Yay, go bears!

Are you old enough to hold a guitar?

Lunch at a genuine American diner, where Mum enjoys my Oreo shake with peanut butter topping.