Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-28

Wrap party!
My long weekend unofficially started on Thursday as I was stuck in 101 North traffic trying to get home and changed for a wrap party.  These are usually excited events with an open bar, good food, and stylish entertainment after a movie screening.  The party was in a tall venue with 4 floors and a balcony surrounding a massive stage and dance floor where acrobats performed.  It was a fun and blurry evening, followed by a late and relaxed day at work where most people were too hung over to come in.  I don't really know how I was so awake at 8am, but I was!

Ty, Kyle and myself did the first music visualization planning get together on Friday night.  We sat and learned Touch Designer, and had interesting conversations about what constitutes a good music visualization, and what types of interactivity make sense.  In the end, Ty and I iterated on a nice and simple visualization with fireworks controlled by a MIDI keyboard.

Saturday morning, Kyle, Sharada, and I drove through Memorial Day traffic to Lake Nacimiento in Paso Robles.  It is a beautiful and secluded property on a bluff overlooking the water, and is owned by the family of a former coworker's wife. A bunch of us hung out, swam around in the lake, sat by the campfire, and had a generally low key and relaxing time.  
Kyle and I went on a short hike on the property.  
We drove back Sunday night, and I spent some more time on the visualizations with Ty.  We came up with a cool interactive thing that uses a Kinect and flashy colors.  I crashed hard, and woke up almost at noon on Monday, and went for my favorite run through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach where along the way I had the pleasant surprise of seeing the Rose Garden while in full bloom.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bay to Breakers, May 20

Kyle and I ran Bay to Breakers last year, and it was an amazing introduction to road races in California.  I learned that to be successful, one must use old floppy naked runners as motivation to run faster.  After all, no one wants to run behind that, especially in the last mile, and this year was no exception.  I barely slept the night before, but was ready to go at 5:45am.  I was able to sneak into a faster starting group since my slow run/walk/drink plans dissolved the week before, and I wanted to race with serious runners.  After a long anxious wait with many other runners, we were off and into the early morning San Francisco shaded streets.

I tried to conserve energy early on since I knew Hayes Hill would hurt a lot.  It worked well, and I kept up 8:30-9 minute pace for the first few, with some motivation from a underwear clad 20-something girl sprinkling glitter on me.  "I got your back, man," she said as I ran past.  It made sense since I was donning an animal print shirt bearing my chest hair, with a (real!) mustache and stupid green sunglasses.  I looked ridiculous, and glitter made sense.

Hayes Hill was rough, but I powered through.  I ran through the Panhandle and park, averaging close to 8:30 pace, speeding up as I got closer to the finish line, and within the last mile and half I got a major speed kick when some bystanders were cheering a fast old naked dude in front of me.  I couldn't let him beat me, and I ran past him in a flurry of spontaneous competition fueled by a strong distaste for the jiggly.

As always, the last bit was a horrible slog leaving me nearly in tears despite passing a variety of live bands en route.  I finished with a time of 1:02:40, which shaved 3 or so minutes off my time from the year before.  Not too bad for not running much recently!  I took the N home to find Jacob, Mike and a crew of girls dressed as sailors wasted in the apartment.  I soberly, albeit quit nauseously joined them to the panhandle, enjoying the drunk people watching and general debauchery that follows the civil yet distinctly San Franciscan road race.  I stopped mid-Panhandle where I met Natalie and one of her friends, Claire.  Sitting never felt so good, and I lounged in a lawn chair while sipping water and watching the costumed drunkards pass by.  We got some food and ice cream, and Claire was replaced by Natalie's friends dressed as flamingos.  We hung out with the flamingos until the post race exhaustion caught up, and I went home and fell asleep HARD!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tahoe, May 12-14

A nice view from our dock
I bring almost nothing when I run in San Francisco on my favorite route from Hayes Valley, up Page st, through the Panhandle and the Park all the way to Ocean Beach.  Shoes, clothes, keys, clipper and credit cards, and maybe a few bucks - no cellphone.  I like feeling disconnected from everything; I find it makes me more perceptive of my surroundings, the people, their conversations as I run by, and the sun shining through the trees.  Nothing is recorded, and it is up to my brain to retain any information I process.

The simplicity is freeing in a world where I am constantly looking at my phone, uploading pictures, surfing the web, blogging infrequently, and generally leaving my permanent(ish) mark on the world through both local to my computer and in the cloud.   I'd love to think I can rely heavily on this principle - that I don't need or want computer devices to retain, process and obtain information on such a regular basis, but I get crap for burying my face in my phone more often than I should.  This came to the forefront of my mind when driving to Tahoe this weekend.  I pulled into a gas station, and noticed my precious iPhone 4s suddenly looked like an old tv with terrible reception.  It barely worked, and repeated attempts to revive it either resulted in more shaky imagery or weird striped lines.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the directions to the cabin written down, nor did I remember the address, but I was able to pry the info out, write it down on some scrap paper at a WalMart, and be on my way.  It is frightening to see how helpless I was without my phone.

I got to the cabin without further incident, and didn't really care about my easily replaced phone, nor do I right now.  What really sucked was when I realized that whatever rampage on the innards of my phone included deleting some photos from a few weeks ago that I hadn't synced to my computer.  If I spend the time to take a picture, I don't want to lose it.  Ever.  And definitely not ones I care about like these.  When this same thing almost happened in Japan, it was devastating (ask Jacob how pissy I was).  Luckily, I recovered those, and all the ones from this disaster.

But I digress, I had a fun weekend with an incredible group of people packed into a huge, lake-side house with a private dock, and enough food to feed a small army.  We lounged a lot, and damn did I get sunburned.  A few of us did a small amount of climbing with an unfortunately proportionate amount of bushwhacking through manzanita, and I had my first fall on gear (a small fall on an orange tcu).  Laughs were had, bikes were ridden off the dock, COLD swims were "enjoyed", and lots of terrific food was eaten.  I'm getting too used to drinking freshly squeezed orange juice from Colin's juicer.  Damn that shit is good!

I drove back Sunday night with a bunch of friends cramped into my car with far more of my gear than was used.  Usually, I am bummed with such a dearth of high-intensity outdoorsy adventure, but this weekend was great the way it was.  Even with my sunburns and broken phone.
Hanging out on the dock

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

4 days, 1300 miles, May 3-6

Trips that combine wilderness adventure with the niceties of city living always intrigue me.  I love the duality of the two seemingly disparate lives - rafting some class III rapids, then eating at a Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant.  Or maybe a frenzy of crowds, learning, partying and visual effects goodness at SIGGRAPH followed by eating almost only cheese and bread while living in my 1 person tent at Squamish and climbing for 3 days.  These four days had that contrast along with massive non-road-trip-rule-breaking mileage.
Getting some work done in LA
Thursday morning started with a hectic drive and thinking I'd miss my early flight to Burbank.  7:00am seems early as hell to someone like myself who gets up after 8:30, but apparently, droves of people are awake AND driving at this rather painfully early hour.  I walked into the terminal just as they started boarding, which was reassuring, although it did require running and a delayed departure to keep my anxiety levels in check.  Before I knew it (damn these LA flights are short) I was sitting at a spare desk in a dark end of a cubicle typing away, demoing software and hanging out with coworkers I don't see in person very often.  The day went fast, and I had an awesome dinner and good whiskey with my coworkers before crashing hard.
Winning the wedgie!

Friday started with more demos and a bit of actual coding before proceeding to the main event.  I've been extremely lucky to have been involved with some amazing projects at work, which have garnered a good amount of attention due to fantastic artists using my software.  Thus, a bunch of us won an award, and had a luncheon party complete with great food, pointy glass thingies (ahem, called a "wediges"), and fascinating conversations with the CEO.  I was jazzed and excited about my current project afterward, and got a bit more work in before boarding a plane back to San Jose, driving to Justin's in Redwood City, reuniting with my stashed gear, and driving 6 hours to Lassen National Park.  Yep, that last sentence involves around 500 or so miles of travel.  We arrived at Hat Creek Campground early Saturday morning at around 2:30am.  We were tired, and I had been snoozing on and off in the car, catching glimpses of a conversation I guess I was having with Justin, although my contributions were weak acknowledgments and what was likely incomprehensible jabber.  Needless to say, we slept in.

Must. Sleep.
Saturday morning we both knew we were going to take it easy.  We got a bit of a warmup in near Lassen along the park road.  It was nothing special, but got us on skins and brought our heart rates up a bit.  All said and told, we did maybe 700 vertical feet and a few miles.  Afterward, we checked out some potential packrafting in the area, ate bad food at a restaurant in Burney, and got to bed early with the yells of a group of obnoxious old guys partying alongside a rented RV in the site next to us.

We awoke at 6:00am on Sunday to a car blanketed in ash from those damn campground neighbors.  We both slept well, which was lucky since Justin and I both knew how intense this day would be.  Lassen Peak was our goal, something we had summited without skis in 2008.  It was while trudging down the soft mid-afternoon slopes on foot that I witnessed backcountry skiers scream past me in ecstatic joy, carving beautiful turns into the same snow I was fumbling on.  It planted the seed that backcountry skiing was the best way to do mountaineering, even though at the time I hadn't skied more than a few times in the past 10 years.

Lassen Peak in its full glory!
It was a long trudge on skins through the woods ending with rewarding views of the massive summit in a clearing.  The Northeast face beckoned with its steep untracked corn snow and we skinned for a while, eventually stopping to take a break and eat on a rock outcrop.  We tried to continue skinning, but decided it was too steep when it was too late and had to carefully switch to crampons and axes while precariously perched on steep snow.  The remaining slog was uncompromisingly steep and relentless front pointing up roughly 1500 feet of 30-45 degree snow.  My lightweight gloves were causing my fingers to get painfully cold, and my stomach wanted food, but we couldn't stop for fear of falling or dropping our packs or ourselves down the steep slopes.  The skis caused massive instabilities, and I was grateful for every moment I could put my heel into a small recess in the snow to catch my breath.
Steep and tiring snowfield

We were happy to reach the summit ridge, but it was only after almost getting blown off by a massive gust of wind that caused me to press my body carefully against the steep slope, gripping my axe in fear.  We found respite from the strong cold winds, relaxed and ate for a while, then headed up to the summit block where we were met by a group of three ready to descend.  Justin took one look at the descent and decided to head to the ridge and take video, but only after some adventure fluting and music video filming.
So it was just me on the summit block.  I organized gear, threw my skis into alpine mode and edged towards the cliff.  I calmly gripped my poles and peered over the edge.  It was a 55 degree slope for about 100-200 feet, covered in slick, icy snow.  There was no room for error as a fall would mean careening down the slope completely out of control.  Much to my surprise, it didn't phase me since this was the toughest pitch I have ever considered, and the solitude of the remote backcountry summit was unfamiliar and isolating.  All anxiety was gone and all my pain from the ascent was replaced with an overwhelming adrenaline rush.  I didn't see Justin on the ridge taking photos, but it didn't matter.  I was ready, so I took the drop.

I slid down the first 30 or so feet until I had to make a turn.  I threw in something between a timid jump turn and a snowplow and immediately accelerated FAST.  I had to dig my edges in to stop, but it felt stable as I released a large amount of sluff.  I made another turn soon after, releasing even more sluff.  Now, I was in comfortably maneuverable terrain, so I made a confident turn at speed, only to be hit by the wave of snow I had knocked loose.  I rode through, and was free, and on a continuous 45 degree pitch with good corn snow.  I threw down turn after turn, watching the clear path of beautiful snow pass by.  I stopped after 1000 feet, took a breather, and did another 1000 of awe-inspiring steep snow until I reached some rocks.  I whooped in joy, quickly took my skis off, and went to the rocks, reclined, closed my eyes, and relished my wonderful and preciously earned turns in solitude.
One very happy adventure-blogger!

Justin and I met up at the rocks, exchanged superlatives about the pitch we had done, and threaded turns down the remaining 1000 feet of steep skiing.  This lead to low angle tree skiing on wet mid-afternoon snow all the way back to the car where we packed up, and drove back to home.

It was a long and eventful four days that had no shortage of good lessons and fun despite me being on the verge of biting off more than I could chew.  Skis on your back makes front pointing with crampons hard and frustrating when you need to save energy to enjoy the descent.  I can't wait to ski down Lassen Peak again, even if it isn't attached on the end of a wonderful trip to LA to collaborate and hang out with my awesome coworkers.