Sunday, 27 June 2010

Fussball

Why oh why oh why? Every time! Hopes are raised to inexplicable levels...and then the Germans beat us. At least it wasn't on penalties this time. Thanks to Pete and Fini's hospitality we quickly switched allegiance to Argentina and enjoyed a better second game, but perhaps The Sun has (I can't believe I'm saying this) got something right.



The day started at 6am, so we needed a nutritious breakfast.



One happy, one resigned.



Dan finally shows his true, traitorous colours. He wants Germany to win as then New Zealand will be the only undefeated side in the tournament (three draws, out in the first round. Hmmm).

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Goldfrapp

In a display of patriotic pride prior to the World Cup match tomorrow, Hannah and I went to see Goldfrapp play in Oakland tonight. Goldfrapp are the band responsible for inspiring every female-singer-electronic-pop performance of the last decade. Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Kylie, 90% of Eurovision entries...you name it. Don't believe me? Well, it's true.

The concert was in the Fox Theater, a fantastically restored venue and the site of the infamous Mika night when Hannah and Christine returned tired and emotional. There are waitresses that bring you drinks on the dance floor! This was their excuse.

Needless to say, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory were amazing. It took her a few songs to really warm up, but after that they were flying. Their only doing five dates in the USA and the band seemed genuinely amazed at the warmth of the reception, and left the stage after an hour-and-a-half and two encores grinning. Not even their elaborate stage set deflating midway through could stop them (it re-inflated a song later, to much cheering). And we weren't even the oldest concert goers! Although, usefully, we were among the tallest.



The mightily restored Fox Theater, Oakland.



The warm up act: a guy with a computer. Rubbish.



Hannah, head and shoulders above everyone.



Here they are!



Will Gregory on the much-underused keytar.



Even a deflating set can't keep them down.



Back up, and the crowd goes wild.



Outfit #1



Outfit #2



And outfit #3

Want a listen? How's about A&E, Number 1, and Happiness.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Migration

Palo Alto and Mountain View are popular places to move to in Northern California (for those that can't make it to Walnut Creek...) Elad, with two cats and a dog, has already made it down there and today it was the turn of the Singers. Hannah and I popped back to Uni Village (it's been so long!) to help them out.

Luckily a removal company had been hired to help them out as well, and aside from a little picture hook removal I didn't have to strain myself. With the 24-foot truck all packed, Elliot headed off.

Unfortunately, being a dentist rather than a truck driver, he took an uphill corner a little too quickly and embedded the back of the van in the tarmac, leaving the wheels spinning freely and several irate drivers stuck behind him. Thankfully Elise and his mother were around to sort out a tow truck, and he finally appeared at their new house only slightly more panicked and scared-looking than usual.

After overseeing the unpacking we made the short hop down to Elad's new place in Mountain View, where Noozy, Fry and Nimitz have settled in well. Outside of Tel Aviv, this place must have the highest concentration of Israeli entrepreneurs in the world. Elad fits right in...and is available to babysit the Singer girls whenever asked!



The truck, pre-tarmac gouging.



Hannah and Elise sort the princesses' room.



Fry, previously winner of world's-most-antisocial-cat, has obviously been affected by the Mountain View air.



What do you do when your Rock Band colleagues live far away? Do it all yourself! Phil Collins would be proud.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A goodbye to the kibbutz

Today was our last day in University Village.

Things started early with a trip to the pub to support our fellow subjects of Her Majesty, the New Zealanders. The All Whites were taking on the Azzurri in the World Cup, and when we arrived shortly after kick-off the plucky Kiwis had already scored! Italy's penalty kept things incredibly tense for the rest of the game, but three people erupted in cheers when the final whistle blew.

The day then disappeared in a blur of picking up a U-Haul van, driving it home, filling it with the help of wonderful friends, feeding these same friends pizza in front of the Brazil-Cote d'Ivoire match, driving to our new home, unloading, returning the truck...phew! Luckily with so many MBAs involved everything was achieved with maximum efficiency.

The Walnut Creek apartment is lovely. All fixtures and fittings are brand new, the carpet is luxurious after the brown 1mm-deep acrylic of Uni Village, and the use of space is a lot more efficient (e.g. you can't fit an entire second family in the bathroom). And there's air-conditioning! Although the idea that houses can keep heat out as well as in still seems crazy to this North European islander.

It's going to be strange, not being five seconds away from a cup of tea, chat, or Rock Band session with all of our amazing friends. But then again, we now have a pool! Ah, we were never really that close...



Go New Zealand! Celebrating a great draw.



SuperDan. His powers are probably something to do with beer.



How many MBAs does it take to...?



The pregnant ladies, consulting.



On the move.



Back in the old house.



Did I mention the pool?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The loneliest road

Most of our day was spent on Highway 50 - the self-styled loneliest road in America. "Let's hope so," Hannah commented, wanting a swift drive back to California. So we waved goodbye to Ely without much sadness and drove west and up into the mountains.

It was pretty lonely. You get short stretches of hairpin bends over ranges in the Sierra Nevadas before long, straight swathes of tarmac down into wide flat valleys and up the other side. I've given up trying to capture any of it with a camera, you'll just have to visit yourself.

We made a few stops, to see some Native American petroglyphs, a singing sand dune, and a pony express station. The sand dune wasn't in particularly good voice, probably annoyed by all the quad bikes riding up and down it.

The temperature rose as the land fell away, and soon enough we were back in California. It was obvious when this happened: the roads became potholed and the traffic ground to a halt. Time to become a park ranger (or maybe a Greyhound driver).


That's how we like it.



Looking west.


It doesn't have much competition.


Petroglyphs. Even 10,000 years ago they could have put in a little more effort...



This is more like it! Turns out the Native Americans around here were pretty socially progressive (even if their spelling isn't 100%).



The car we'll be renting for the next trip.



The singing sand dune, with stage fright.



Another job opportunity!

Across the Great Basin

After an early start to watch a couple of World Cup matches with Dan, Hannah and I wandered into Cedar City. Someone at some time decided to make this Shakespeare capital of Utah (and America? And therefore the world?) Every year they hold their Shakespeare Festival which takes place in a full-size reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre, located on the university campus. Not what you expect to find around here.

After that we met up with Dan again and headed for Toadz, the local sports bar, to catch the England/Algeria game. Surprisingly we were the only three people in there for the entire two hours (which at least meant fewer had to suffer England's ongoing football nightmare). We then waved goodbye to Dan - he was off to Vegas to catch his flight home - and drove north-west. The scenery was eye-popping (and ear-popping) as we went up and down the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The amazing thing about this country is how much stuff is just there if you take the time to stop. The bigger worry is how much you miss by driving by, but today we did well by opting for a break in Great Basin National Park. It claims to be the least visited of all the national parks (its location can't help) but its walks and views, and caves, match up to anything its more popular siblings can offer. We took a short hike through aspens and pine around Wheeler Peak, and almost saw a mountain lion.

The last night of our road trip is here in Ely. Not the one in England, where Hannah's brother lives, but in a wide valley in Nevada. It's a crossroads town that has the luck of being on an Indian reservation, so we made sure to sample one of the two casinos. But Friday night around here is not the best time to be out, and we got scared of all the teenage drinkers (too long ago for us to remember) so ran back to the safety of our motel room. Tomorrow it's all the way home to hopefully sunny California.



Utah was one of Shakespeare's favourite places.



"Let's build a replica of an Elizabethan theatre, and let's put it...here!"



Toadz bar. Thank goodness we got there early.



Dan demonstrates tactics.



Before: quietly confident.



After: not being consoled by Dan (he is wearing suspiciously Algerian colours).


The long and non-winding road to Ely.



Hannah speeds to beat a dust devil (they have priority in this state).



What's the difference between a buffalo and a basin?



Looking back at the Great Basin itself.



Hannah is pleased with our motel.



Wheeler Peak.



Aspens.



Conquering a snowy summit. Weren't we in the middle of a desert only two days ago?



But look what I found on top! Undoubtedly mountain lion prints! It's true - dogs aren't allowed in the park...


Hannah crosses a bridge. We were a little lost at this point.



The wonders of Ely.



Yep, just like Vegas.



But Hannah is unimpressed.