Sunday, 28 February 2010

Digging for home

Dan's almost on his way back from Indonesia, but sent a nice pic of the toys he gets to play with out there.

If it takes three men two days to dig one hole...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Keeping it green

Here in Berkeley it's all about the green (in so many ways) and Hannah and I have enjoyed a particularly environmentally friendly couple of days.

We began on Thursday with a trip into SF - on public transport, of course - to a Net Impact event about environmentally responsible small businesses. It took place in the Galleria Park Hotel, one of the few hostelries in the city to be a certified green business with its 4 Green Eco-leaf rating!

The event was...a little dull but we did eat beforehand in Midi, the hotel's locally sourced organic sustainable restaurant. Judging by the size of their portions, 'sustainable' seems to mean that they can get far more servings out of each vegetable than a normal restaurant. But it was tasty! We did pop to The Cheesecake Factory on the way home...

Then on Friday, Berkeley held PLAYgreen: it's annual eco-experiential lifestyle festival. This was more like it! Free Ben and Jerry's, a swap-two-old-t-shirts-for-one-new-one stand, and plenty more swag from the various exhibitors.

One of the strangest participants was the maker of the Nada-Chair: "the chair that you wear". Made from organic cotton and hemp (of course) it was actually an incredibly comfortable back support thing. We left impressed, educated, and just a little greener than before.

Hannah, dining sustainably (if you ignore degradation to your wallet).

PLAYgreen - popular.

This is the Berkeley Officer Training Corps giving away water bottles to anyone who could do 35 press-ups. I didn't embarrass myself. (Think US Army, think environmental sustainability!)

Sitting down is much more my style. A career as a Nada-Chair model beckons.

Rag and bone. Our old t-shirts are destined to become paper (like at Wookey Hole!) Our new t-shirts are 100% comfortable organic cotton.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Our man in Jakarta

Intrepid Kiwi Dan is over in Indonesia at the moment, doing geothermal stuff. He puts equipment into holes to see if energy will come out, and actually does a lot of contract work for that well known ethical company Chevron. Here's his first dispatch:

Beer is cold
Jaguars are fierce
Roads are the crazyness




Monday, 22 February 2010

My sister sent me a card today

She's lovely.

Short stuff

I'm back from an hour-and-a-half of the most pure, unadulterated fun I've ever had in a movie theatre!

Our very own Shattuck Cinemas was showing the five animated short films nominated for Oscars this year. Wow - the longer films could learn a thing or two.

A strange tale about a man who can't pay his coffee bill. A old lady who welcomes death. Wallace and Gromit (huge cheer when that appeared)! A granny who doesn't know how to tell a fairy story. And finally one of the most extreme and subversive pieces of animation I have ever seen (and one for every business school student to watch).

For your viewing pleasure (click on the outward arrows in the bottom-right to make them BIG!):

Sadly only a trailer for the next one, but if you want to see the work in its complete genius then you can here (warning: parental consent definitely needed):

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Wham BAM

It's a Saturday, when I always enjoy challenging culturally defined ideas of space and breaking down society's strict delimiters of context, time, relaxation, and art.

Luckily for me the on-campus Berkeley Art Museum is currently hosting BAMscape. "You sit on it," the publicity states...and it's hard to describe it any other way. It's a sort of series of orange wooden waves set in the middle of this huge concrete gallery. Some waves are shallow, some are big (not that big), all have helpful non-slip strips on to stop you shooting off. There are power points dotted throughout. And free wi-fi!

So here I am, interacting with the art as I blog. I'm sure you can sense the extra creativity. Hannah is a couple of waves over from me reading about business, and the only other swimmer in this fluorescent sea is off in the far corner.

I'll just stop typing now and show you the photos.

Just like I described, right?

I always enjoy following rules (especially polite orange ones).

Standing on the incandescent sea shore.

Some come to work.

Others to distract.

Anthropomorphic brutalism.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Wise, old

I'm always amazed by the wildlife that surrounds us here in California, and never more so than this week when a bunch of Western Burrowing Owls turned up for their annual winter stay at Berkeley Marina.

These cute crepuscular critters stand around ten inches tall and move into unused burrows of other creatures, in this case the local ground squirrels. This being California, signs instruct you not to point at the owls (which can inform predators of their position) or stare too long as this causes them stress (which would presumably result in a law suit).

What's this I spy?

Not your common-or-garden night-dwelling owls here.

One of the locals, not too impressed.

Beady eyes.

Owls: adorable.

A gorgeous day on the Bay.

Some more common Berkeley wildlife.

Affairs of the heart

It's Valentine's Day! Would you believe that in America this is commercialised into a business opportunity to send cards, buy chocolates, etc? We are also encouraged to take a loved one to the movies. And this year the marketing geniuses have come up with a film called...Valentine's Day!

Fini, queen of the romantic comedies (queen of everything, really) suggested that a crowd of us head up to our local cinema to watch it. The place now has a liquor licence, so Hannah and I enjoyed beer and wine with our pizza.

The film? Well, from a quick perusal of some online reviews: "If you didn't despise Hallmark's holiday before, you certainly will after enduring this Death March of rom-coms." "Less funny or romantic than your average colonoscopy." "Like a tiny car that putters into the centre ring at the circus and starts disgorging clown after clown." "There have been a lot of films lately about the end of civilization, but none of them holds a candle to the shallow, emotionally barren wasteland laid out before us in Valentine's Day."

Did any of that spoil our enjoyment (or our pizza)? Not one little bit! It just meant that I had the excuse to watch The Terminator when I got home, to remind myself how good a real movie can be.

On one of the Rialto's love seats.

Slightly fuzzy group shot...probably due to the alcohol they now serve.

Fini and the cast.

Young love.

Surfing safari

"But what are you going to do in California all the time Hannah's studying for her MBA?" was the most common question asked before we moved here. "Learn to surf," was always my reply, delivered with a cheeky wink and a toss of my (soon to be sun-bleached) hair.

The plan didn't quite work out, mainly because I'm all talk and also because if you surf at our local beach you're more likely to catch cholera than a wave.

But today I did get to be near some real surfers when we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Half Moon Bay for the Mavericks 2010 Surf Contest. This was actually the delayed 2009 contest, when the required conditions for giant waves failed to appear. This year there were waves aplenty, with some unfortunate spectators getting in on the act as well (and making the UK papers).

Surfing competitions are strange things. We joined a huge group of spectators up on a cliff-top, where the best view of events happening half a mile out to see could be found. Every now and again one of the imperceptibly tiny dots in the vast blue would scoot along a wave, everyone would cheer, then we'd go back to waiting.

After a while we wandered down to the beach, where the competition sponsors had set up tents and it was even harder to see what was happening. Luckily they had a big screen showing highlights, but the intensity wasn't much higher (about one surfer doing something exciting every 15 minutes or so). All the waves looked catchable to me!

The main excitement occurred when one of the competitors paddled back to the beach and wandered ashore carrying his board. "It's big out there, but makeable," was his quote, which is exactly what I'll be telling everyone back home when they ask how my surfing's coming along.

Following the crowd.

Grandstand seating on the cliff top.

Those that could afford it ($300 each!) opted to be closer to the action.

Look closely...they are out there...

And yes, one of them actually surfs!

Heading down to the beach area, on the other side of the headland.


About as good as my view got from this side.

Some people who know how to do it properly.

This is more like it! A comfortable seat and a big screen.

If you can't see the sport, check out the sponsors' tents. Here's my best freebie of the day.

The view at lunch, on the harbour beach.

Hannah, too hot in the February sun.

Duly warned.

Here's a genuine surfer! Wow.

Some familiar-looking surf fans.

A slightly less crowded beach on the way home, but whoever named this ocean Pacific needs to relearn their Latin.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Walking on water

Another day, another strenuous snow activity. This time we walked away from Don Cheepo's with snow shoes!

I remain undecided about cross-country skiing, and the whiplash from sledging leaves me wondering when I'll return to that, but! Previously inaccessible terrain suddenly opens up before you. Forget the cartoon image of strapping tennis rackets to your feet - these babies were the peak of hi-tech.

David C. and Ari joined Hannah and I for a excursion into the wilderness. We headed far off the beaten path, no more so than when we realised we were standing in the middle of a frozen river (because Ari fell in). We returned tentatively to the tree line.

After that we had a quick (because it gets strangely cold when you're sitting still) picnic on the beach, returned the shoes, and after a final stop for some sustenance were on our way back to Berkeley. We'd cunningly chosen to travel during the Superbowl, and made it home in under three hours. It is downhill all the way.

Hannah gets herself kitted out.

Check out these bad boys!

David C. and Hannah prepare themselves for what lies ahead (clue: it's cold and white).

Off into the wild.

Tiptoeing through the aspens.

Even further into the wild.

Ari takes a short rest. No stamina!

My kind of sport.

The only way to finish such a great weekend: with an Oreo milkshake.