Monday, March 30, 2009

so much fun in san francisco

It was so good to see Kate and Krista and enjoy the city. I had a lot of fun! On Friday Billy and Kate picked me up with a quiet and dazed Peter in the back seat. He's so cute. Billy dropped Kate and me off in the Mission on Valencia Street. After a great breakfast at Boogaloos (vegetarian herb cream gravy over cornmeal biscuit), we shopped and shopped and shopped until about 6. I was exhausted from walking around so much, but it was just like old times in good ole Lville. We got great stuff--clothes, jewelry, books, house stuff.

My favorite part of the day was going into a vintage store called Shauplatz. The owner, complete with German accent, spent no less than 10 minutes making me try on every pair of knock-off designer sunglasses to help me find the right ones (which turned out to be ones that make me look a little like a giant bug.) Meanwhile, Kate pulls a beautiful blue, slinky dress from the 70s off the rack and insists that the dress is made for me. When I balk, the owner joins her in insisting that it is perfect for me, and I try it on. When I come out of the dressing room wearing it, they insist that it's perfect and that I have to get it. Because it is clearly a dress made for dancing at disco parties, I ask skeptically where I'd wear it. "Anywhere that you want to feel pretty!" the owner exclaims. Great answer! $50 later, it's mine...and I still have no idea where I'll ever wear it.

Saturday was another gorgeous, warm, sunny day. Krista and I walked to the farmer's market at the Ferry Building, then up to North Beach, down through Chinatown and Downtown, then to Golden Gate Park via the Muni (at the entrance of which we were greeted by a guy peeing into the grate) to walk through the arboretum. I bought the most amazing coat (on sale!) and a beautiful gray drapey wrap at a store called Annabelle in North Beach.

At the end of the day, I felt like I was going to collapse from exhaustion, so we got drinks and appetizers at Chow and waited for Mark to join us for dinner. It was the most amazing dinner--salad and eggplant parmesan but all freshly made from local ingredients.

I had a blast, and it was so good to see good friends. Now I'm back in gloomy and gray Pittsburgh where I'd forgotten it's still winter...but the cats--who refuse to leave my side for a second--are keeping me warm.

Shopping with Kate...
Krista and Mark bought an awesome condo with a great city view in this building in Mission Bay.

Cafe au lait and an awesome breakfast at a cute French bistro.

The Bay Bridge.

Farmer's market at the Ferry Building.

Inside the Ferry Building.
Coit Tower seen from the Embarcadero.
North Beach.
Very busy Chinatown.
Krista warned me that I might see dead animals hanging from their legs in Chinatown, but the only thing I saw were these dried worm-like things. Krista in the aboretum.Me enjoying the biggest ferns I'd ever seen.

Friday, March 27, 2009

finally here in san fran!

I'm done with the conference and in San Francisco! Just back from an awesome dinner at Cocos in SOMA where they serve food made from fresh, local ingedients. We had fried green beans with dipping sauce; garlic, goat cheese, and arugula pizza; truffled mushroom flatbread; and a bottle of California zinfandel. Delicious.

Good to talk to Krista about politics and learn that I'm not the only socialist-minded person in this country, and good to make fun of Facebook status updates with her.

Her condo that she just bought, with an awesome city view, is amazing. There are cafes and coffee shops all around, plus a dog park and a walking trail. Made me want to move to San Francisco and work for Adobe...though I want to move here every time I visit. probably won't happen (though Krista is always happy to point out what companies are hiring, including Adobe!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

i want to work for adobe

My hero of the day: Jim Sartain. He's the senior director of software quality at Adobe and was one of our keynote speakers. Wow! His talk was so inspiring! He talked about the processes he's using at Adobe to achieve significant increases in quality and decreases in rework (this is pretty much what this conference is about.) But his philosophy is coaching instead of mandating, and letting his teams choose which processes they want to adopt and then letting the teams hold themselves accountable. I would love to work for him!

What's more, when I introduced myself and told him I'd be taking pictures, he offered to get up onstage right then so that I could get a good shot. He's great--he seems really down to earth. I made sure to tell him how much I love Adobe products!

exhaustion & lions

I’m beat. I’ve worked many 12+ days but not so physically demanding since my Kennywood days. I've been waking up between 3:30 and 4:30 and not being able to go back to sleep and then running around the convention center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in heels lugging a heavy laptop and going to different sessions to take pictures and notes on technical topics of which I have only the faintest grasp. And then among the noise and constant activity, I have to write. I am used to writing in my own office with absolutely no noise! It feels a little like working in a newsroom--I know I have to take the files to be printed by a certain time, and I need to do all my edits and lay out the photos right up to the minute then run three blocks to the nearest Kinko’s to have the newsletter printed. I would not like being a journalist.

After finishing work late yesterday, I went out to eat on my own. What’s up with the aggressive homeless here? Three separate times, grizzled homeless men not only asked me for change, but started following me when I ignored them (I had the phone to my ear pretending to talk to someone.) Luckily I walked faster than they did.

And cable TV sucks! After watching a show on DeDe, a sweet guy in the Phillipines who developed such heavy warts that he looked like a tree, and shows about crazy couples who have eight and 12 children, I tried to think of which I'd prefer: looking like a tree or having a gaggle of children. Maybe the kids if they went to boarding school in Switzerland and were shipped back when they were 25 or so.

Is it Thursday yet?

More pictures….San Jose University campus.

Our reception kicked off with a performance by Chinese Lion Dancers. It was awesome! I’ll have to post a video after I figure out how to compress the files so it doesn’t take 10 hours to upload.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

made it to san jose

Whew. I always forget what a pain it is to fly to the West Coast. I got to the Pittsburgh airport early like I always do. The airport was nearly deserted—there wasn’t any line for security. So I had an hour wait before my first flight. At Chicago, during my two-hour layover, I planned to do some work online, but the WiFi wasn’t free. After eating a crappy bagel sandwich and grapes for dinner, I started writing and completely forgot the time. Before I knew it, I was boarding the plane without peeing beforehand! I had a window seat and thought it was such a pain to get up and use the airplane toilet that I suffered through four and half hours of holding it. (That night, I had a nightmare about desperately needing to pee but the only toilet was in a crowded room.) It was a packed flight. The guy beside me kept elbowing me, the woman in front of me immediately shoved her seat back into my knees, and the guy behind me kept kicking my seat back. Air travel sucks.

When we finally got into San Jose at 8:30 p.m. (11:30 our time), I was exhausted. Luckily my bag came to baggage claim as soon as I got there, and the taxi ride into the city was quick.

I'm staying at the San Jose Crowne Plaza. The lobby is colorful, modern, and nice. But they gave me the keys to a room someone was already staying in! Luckily they weren’t in the room when I went in. So they put me in another room, apologized for their mistake, and gave me coupons for free breakfast.

This morning I got up late (5:30 CA time, 8:30 our time) and went to the gym. I’m happy that few people ever use the hotel gym, because there was only one elliptical trainer, and it was all mine! I was upset that I forgot my MP3 player (which is essential to working out for me), but I got to watch cable TV, which was a treat. In fact, I haven’t stopped watching episodes of home renovations on TLC, except for checking out the Suze Orman Show when I got in. She made me feel bad about spending money! I pride myself that I live below my means and consider myself frugal. Not anymore! There’s a segment called “Can I Afford It?” where people call in to ask advice about whether they can afford something they want. It was crazy! People had $10,000 in combined monthly take-home pay, $100,000 in savings, and $75,000 in retirement, and she said they shouldn’t buy a $400 bed for their son (because of their debt)! It made me feel bad about all my shopping trips to Target and clothes from Ann Taylor Loft. Hmmm…I would consider saving more except for the fact that I plan on spending a lot of money on our back yard this year, and plus there’s the trip to Prague that promises to be expensive because the dollar is so weak.

It's sunny but a cold front has come in, so it's chilly out. Today I got to walk around some and explore. The conference starts in just two hours, so I'm starting to get ready.

Some photos from today...the photo of me and the tree is, I think, the tree I've decided to get--a flowering dogwood!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Off to California!

The conference I’ve been working on since August starts Sunday! In some ways, it feels like my own wedding all over again. I did so much work on it for the year leading up to it, and when it was so close, I was all nerves and excitement and manic joy and frantic worry hoping that it didn’t rain (it didn’t) and that it would turn out well (it did).

I feel the same way now. At the conference, I’ll be creating a daily newsletter, taking pictures, and talking to the attendees to get good testimonials for marketing next year’s conference. It sounded like a piece of cake until now. While I’ve done as much work as I can on the newsletter, I’m still nervous. My days will be packed from around 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. each night, and I'll have to meet the newsletter deadlines in those times plus help to handle any crises that happen.

And I'm always anxious about traveling alone. While I think that dying in an airplane crash would be a pretty good way to go (just a few minutes of pure terror, and then you're dead), of course I'd prefer not to crash! Plus I'll be gone from Dave for two full weekends plus a week, which sucks. And I'll miss the cats!

I will be SO happy on Thursday at 5 p.m. when the conference ends and I can head to San Francisco for a fun weekend.

I'm off to San Jose. Wish me luck!

(Photo is Dave's from 2000.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

blogging from prison

I'm really into this Prison News Blog from prisoner Michael Santos. In prison since 1987, Santos was charged with distribution of cocaine. Though there no weapons or violence involved with his case, Santos was sentenced to a 45-year term.

He's an advocate of prison reform, and he blogs about daily issues in jail. He's also written a book, "Inside: Life Behind Bars in America," that I want to read.

"Taxpayers spent $59 billion each year to cover the costs associated with confining more than 2.3 million people. Despite the massive public expenditure, Congress found that more than six of every ten people who concluded their sentences returned to confinement after their release," said Santos in this blog post.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

spring is so nice this year

The past two days were awesome--so warm and springlike. Both days I took nice walks during lunch. I love that I can walk up Flagstaff Hill, down through Schenley Park (where I saw two turtles scrambling out of the pond water onto a log to sun themselves), and through Phipps' Outdoor Garden (to check out their trees) during lunch. Trees are blossoming, grass is coming up, and the birds never seem to stop singing.

After work both days, Dave and I took long walks. Yesterday we went across the 16th Street Bridge into town, down Liberty Avenue, and back across the 9th Street Bridge and river trail. I love that there are so many different places we can walk to without having to get in a car and drive.

I love spring! I love seeing which of my perennials come back, picking out new plants for our flower boxes in front, and picking out new perennials for the back. This picture is our side planting bed from 2005. The only things still there are the cherry tree and the vines on the fence. We cut out the short evergreen and moved the spiderswort (with purple flowers). And I really don't buy annuals for the back anymore. I buy a lot of ferns and grasses because I generally like foliage more than flowers.

Getting a new tree is first priority, but I can't wait to make our first trip to Brenkle's for new plants!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

so many trees, so little space

We’re getting some work done on our back yard in early April, which will result in room to plant a new tree!

We had to cut down a large mulberry tree last year because it was beginning to crack our concrete patio and damage our retaining wall. That tree created a green, shady, private area in our back. Now that it’s gone, it’s open, exposed, and not pretty. We need another tree!

The landscaper will be removing part of our concrete patio to give us space to plant a new tree and other plants. Only now we have to pick one—and only one, because there won’t be room for two. I’m looking for smaller trees that grow to 25 to 30 feet and have interest all year long—spring flowers, uniquely shaped leaves, pretty fall colors, and winter berries for the birds. A co-worker is a tree geek and was happy to recommend some. His philosophy is “anyone can get a Maple,” so he chooses rare and interesting trees.

I was leaning toward a Dogwood (mainly because you can get an eight-footer at Home Depot for $60), but now I’m realizing there are so many other good ones. There’s the Franklinia, named after Benjamin Franklin and now extinct in the wild. There’s the Golden Chain Tree, which has beautiful yellow weeping flowers. The Smoke Tree has smoky pink flowers from June to August. The Star Magnolia, the smallest magnolia, has beautiful white flowers. The Sourwood Tree has leaves and seedpods that hang in weeping style from the limbs and has early and brilliant fall foliage.

I never knew there were so many kinds of wonderful trees! The hard part will be picking one out--other suggestions?

Monday, March 16, 2009

vacants & impounds

Even though it was cloudy this weekend, it was nice walking weather. Here are some scenes from a Saturday stroll through the condemned section of Route 28, through a sad vacant house, across the 31st Street Bridge, and back through the Strip.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

kate + krista + shopping + san francisco = !

When I told Dave the exciting news that Kate T. will be in San Francisco the same weekend that I'll be there, he literally groaned...thinking of all the money I'll probably spend shopping. Maybe he was remembering the Saturday morning when Kate and I left Gene Sane's with a $300+ order for new dining room chair slipcovers in my purse. (On Monday, I canceled the order.) Or maybe he was remembering the cumulative spending I've done on the house since Kate started giving me her Domino magazines, and since Kate and Pam gave me bunches of great advice on what I should do with my house. Or, perhaps he was simply remembering the frequent shopping Kate and I did when it was, pretty much, part of our jobs.

He was just teasing of course, but how excited am I that I'll soon get to see some old friends in one of my very favorite places? Kate will be there visiting her in-laws. I'm staying with Krista, who lives in San Francisco and just bought her own place in the city. And her friend and old roomate, Julie, who I've known since 2000 when Dave and I first visited Krista in San Francisco, is also going to be in town.

And, hopefully, we're going shopping! Kate is a most excellent shopping companion and happy to give advice, which is mostly, "Yes, you should buy that!" I loved that she left the H&M in Indianapolis with something like 10 dresses and other miscellany. And then she bought more dresses immediately after in Banana Republic. Fun times!

Just two weeks from today--can't wait! (That's me biking in 2007 in the photo.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

finished the wire. now what?

Last night I watched the final episode in the final season of The Wire. Wow, what an awesome series. But what am I going to do without it? At least I still have half of David Simon’s Homicide book to go. Some final observations:
  • I agree with Kim G. that season four was the best. I really loved the kids! Since season four, like Kate T., I’ve thought about adopting a poor inner-city kid, or fostering. But I can’t even get Dave to agree to adopt a dog, much less a juvenile delinquent.
  • I couldn’t look at the city editor Gus without thinking of our favorite Lawrenceville public safety advocate—are they like twins or what? And the stuff that Templeton made up? I definitely think that some of the news is made up. Given all of the journalists in all of the media, there has to be some unethical people mixed in.
  • At least none of my favorites got killed in season five.
  • I'm happy that there was one good ending with Bubbles.
  • Because I’m reading Homicide—nonfiction based on David Simon’s year with the Baltimore homicide unit—I realized that not only are the characters on The Wire based on real people, but a good bit of the dialogue on the show was real dialogue from the book. No wonder the show seems so real!
What series should I start next?