Sunday, April 27, 2008

Biking over Golden Gate Bridge

Biking over Golden Gate Bridge
Originally uploaded by Dan_H
I may not smell so good. And I'm burnt and my feet hurt and I'm feeling decidedly sticky.

BUT, I am content.

I had a wonderful day! This picture was my scene today. Blue, sunny skies... but let me start from the beginning...

Open my Google Map to follow along with the story >>

I walked down Market Street to Peet's coffee just before the Ferry Building. Peet's is quite good. Apparently, they pre-date and mentored the Starbucks folks and even supplied their beans for the first few months of operation.

There was a farmer's market and outdoor arts show on today at the Ferry Building so I looked around and saw lots of jewelery that I couldn't decide between. And a great photographer I loved. Again, I wanted to think about it and I never went back. I think I should have just bought something even though it was probably too expensive.

It was time to eat. After browsing the entire market, I settled on a bowl of seafood chowder and a chocolate chip cookie. The Ferry Building has a lot of high end organic and specialty food shops which were beautiful but a little too much for me.

I took the cable car along the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf and was on my way to rent my bike, when I saw Cold Stone. The last time I was there was when I was in Boston a couple of years ago. I remembered loving it so I went in and got the hard ice cream equivalent of a DQ blizzard. It was good, but too sweet. Sad. In any case, I had to EAT it, so I sat down at The Cannery's square where a performer was singing and playing. It was lovely. He sang a song about Sara(h) that made me think of my friends Sara/Sarah.

And then I rented the bike and the guy flirted with me -- though I'm sure he does that with all the girls -- and I was on my way across the waterfront trails all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I stopped a few times along the way to consult my map. Turns out I forgot to make a critical turn that would have got me to a side trip I wanted to do. But by the time I'd figured that out, I was far past it and didn't want to turn around to do it again.

Anyway, across the bridge I went, taking some pics, finally. The bridge was packed with tourists but the deep orange of the structure was gorgeous against the brilliant blue sky. On the other side, on the road into Sausalito, you can smell warm lavender and spring flowers in the air. It is definitely different over there. Warmer. More mountainous.

What a CUTE little town Sausalito is! Almost European, inasmuch as an American town can be, I suppose. Quaint, anyway. I stopped at Cafe Trieste for an iced Americano. The owners are gruff, the chairs and tables on the patio are plastic and the coffee is strong. But exactly what I needed. I sat there, writing and enjoying the last of the sunshine until a blue irridescent bird perched on my table and seemed totally unafraid of me. After our encounter, I was ready to go and had realized that I'd burned my shoulders and needed to get out of the sun.

So I went to the Lisa Kristine gallery. She's a photographer and I love love LOVED her work. I almost started crying, I was so moved by the photos. They were from India and China and Tibet and the like and they gave me shivers. They were so unbelievably perfect and exactly what I'd want on my walls: such a story to be told in each photo.

And then it was time to catch the ferry back to San Fran. I got a few photos of as we were leaving Sausalito and then Alcatraz as well from the ferry. Leaving the boat, you can grab a MUNI transfer for the public transportation system and get on for free within the next 90 minutes.

I rode my bike back to return it, and stopped in at Fish Alley where a dozen or so stands hawk pretty much the same seafood snacks in, well, an alley. I got a bunch of shrimp. Mmm.

I walked to the Hyde St. historical trolley line and waited. Everyone wanted to get on the same trolley at the same time, it seemed. I waited with my transfer and finally got on. The driver flicked some old-school switches and threw the big switch and we were off up the ridiculously steep hill (Russian Hill). I got off at Lombard St. to see and walk down the world's most crooked street. Well, it's pretty crooked alright. And there are nice houses on it, I suppose.

After that I walked to North Beach, where the "beat generation" was born. During normal hours you could go to one of the zillions of fantastic coffee shops and this great bookstore... but it was late and I was tired and just wanted some gelato. So that's what I had. But as I walked past all the darling little romantic Italian restaurants, I was jealous that I didn't have someone special to share that with. Next time...

And then I was walking again. I THOUGHT I was walking towards Chinatown, but instead I turned the wrong way and walked back towards the water and Pier 39, a tourist trap along the water, really. But it was fun and there was a big chocolate shop there where I just inhaled the yummy goodness. And I browsed in a few shops but ultimately just wanted to go home.

I got on the "F" line which took me right back to my hotel. And now here I am, telling you my story before I drop exhausted into my bed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Great night. Time for sleep.

What a great night I had. After the conference (yay, it's over!) I checked into my new hotel which is definitely not as generic as the Westin. It's more... old and cute. Pickwick. Even the name is cute. It helps that it's significantly cheaper.

Anyway, free internet, yay!
And it was a nice day out so after getting settled, I walked north to Powell Street where the old cable cars run and over to Union Square. There, I ordered a latte at Le Caffe and it was really quite a nice coffee. And I sat and read my tourist information booklet cover to cover and made notes on where I want to go tomorrow. There are a lot of bullet points in my list.

On my way back to my hotel I stopped in at Victoria's Secret. Bad idea. It's so awesome, the stuff they have there. I want a lot of it. But I can't have it all. For one thing, it won't all fit in my suitcase. So I couldn't decide on WHAT. So I ended up buying nothing before rushing back to my hotel to meet up with my friend, Michael.

Michael took me over to "the Mission," an area in San Fran known for its latino population, and specifically to a Senegalese restaurant, Bissap Baobab which was wonderful. And they all knew my friend Michael. In fact, it seems EVERYONE knows him. He's just one of those people.

After dinner we went next door to ChaChaCha, a great old Irish pub where, again, he knows the staff. We had some drinks and talked about the next phase of my life and what I've learned from teaching. I realize now that I think we talked about me. This is very selfish of me and I am mentally apologizing to him for that.

Then we went to Little Baobab, affiliated with the first restaurant where the owner and his friend were DJing a mix of world music, I don't know what to call it. There was some salsa and some reggae-like and a pop song and some other music that had a good beat but wasn't in English. It was fun but I was TIRED.

Sadly, I had to leave. So we took the bus back to my hotel and now here I am, just waiting to crash.

And so excited about my day out and about tomorrow.

Friday, April 25, 2008

fake steve jobs

fake steve jobs
Shockingly (or not), fake steve jobs is really funny. Why am I surprised? Mostly, just at WHAT he was so funny ABOUT.

At a Web 2.0 conference he made fun of blogging, blogs, Facebook, twitter and pretty much anything social-media-related as being a waste of time. And the best part is that we loved it.

We loved being told that the essence of our lives is really unimportant and probably a bubble that's about to burst. That the self-important "idols" of this movement who are professing to be "changing the world" are really ridiculous egomaniacs.

But our media is changing and he acknowledged that. "It's like being able to talk to the cartoonist after seeing the cartoon and sending him ideas for his next cartoon and then seeing it in the paper the next day." It's interactive (duh) and it's fun and it's addictive.

And I still love what I do.
Even though fake steve jobs just told me I'm pretty useless. But he made me laugh when he said it, so it's all OK.

Sax in the city

Jazz Jam Man
Originally uploaded by Vermin Inc
God knows why I waited so long to eat dinner.

I suppose it was one of those lucky coincidences. I kept thinking that I was going to be finished my work “in a minute” and so I kept doing “one last thing” and suddenly it was 10pm.


Alone and hungry in San Francisco at 10pm with no idea where to go. What else to do but as the concierge. And so I did. And he made a wonderful recommendation.

So I walked about 10 minutes up?down? to Union Square. I was passing it, wondering what the cute little square was when I realized it was the big thing on the map that I’d been planning to see. I passed gorgeous stores. Macy’s. Saks Fifth Avenue. And my favourites of a slightly more modest scale: Banana Republic, Max Mara and the like.

I almost too quickly got to the Prince Drake Hotel. A gorgeous old style hotel. I was not expecting that. I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly. Generic and mundane? This one has character. And I looked at the menu at Scala. It was perfect: Italian. I was seated quickly, served quickly and ate with pleasure. I looked around me.

I was surrounded by a huge group of Italian-speaking friends or family. A couple in front of me was clearly having trouble communicating – spoke two different languages, I suspect from my eavesdropping. Over there, a slick gay couple, one man so stylishly feminine, I wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t a very masculine woman at first. They had martinis and fancy appetizers eaten with pinky out and beautiful meals and they worked on their shared PDA. The rustic brick wall by the kitchen was partially hung with polished copper pots and the waiters in white shirts, black ties and vests weaved around each other pleasantly about their busy ways. As I watched the boisterous crowd at this time of night in the low-lit room, a cable car trundled up the hill outside. I dipped my perfectly crusty bread into the grassy olive oil and smiled to find myself here, experiencing this.

On my walk home, I passed a guy playing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” on his sax. At a random corner, for no one. But me. It was a perfect night.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Web experiments

I'm learning things at this conference in San Fran and I'm doing some experiments. So if you notice weird things on my blog or website, please comment on whether you like it or not and I will be changing them in the future anyway. Lots of interesting stuff here. Not enough time!

Off to the next session!

More from San Fran

Yerba Buena Gardens
Originally uploaded by srmurphy
So what have I done in San Fran?

  • visited Walgreen's where they did NOT have extra strength ibuprofen at all
  • eaten at Monk's Kettle (Market and Valencia, around the 16th St BART Station, for those in the know) which has excellent cheese and other local ingredients
  • saw the Yerba Buena gardens
  • had frustrating times at the conference and an interesting conversation
  • walked the show floor almost aimlessly before realizing I had to plan it out before going in there again unless it was just to get another piece of chocolate
  • didn't go to Starbucks today
  • went to the launch of a new alternative newspaper for San Francisco at the California Historical Society where I had a lovely glass of chardonnay
  • ate Thai food with a friend (mmm, curried sea bass!)
  • walked around the Palace Hotel - gorgeous
  • decided to try the coffee at Peet's - a local Starbucks competitor!
A big, tiring day. Time for sleep.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

San fran so far...

  • starbucks cups are different (black writing, not green)
  • they don't know what a London Fog is
  • vanilla earl grey tea mistos are cheaper here
  • the weather is pretty good, but not AS good as yesterday in Toronto
  • I already have 2 fun get togethers set up with friends here!
  • I love free internet access - though, what did I think would happen at a Web 2.0 conference?
  • no free breakfast. Good thing I got starbucks. too bad my London Fog didn't taste as good as usual :(
  • nice hotel (Westin) but expensive internet access. boo! but a bath robe. YAY!
  • can't wait to really walk around and see some stuff and eat good food.
  • now I'm going to start listening to my session...

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm in love

She is tiny. Her head fits in the palm of my hand. She fidgets and makes funny little dissatisfied noises and is constantly moving her fingers. She sleeps all balled up like a little frog. And sticks her tongue out a lot. And she keeps her parents awake a lot.

But when I visit, I just stare at her and I can't stop staring. Even when she poops right when I'm holding her, it still doesn't break the spell.

What is wrong with me?

I don't even like babies. And I've got baby fever.

I rented a car this weekend and drove to visit my parents and then again to visit my brother and Kendra and the baby, Freya. It was such a lovely weekend. The weather was fantastic as I walked in the back acres around my parents' house. We made an amazing steak dinner and then my mom and I bonded over yet another quilt consultation. I didn't want to leave except that I couldn't wait to get that baby back in my arms.

So I'm just giving up and calling myself a typical dorky girl who swoons over babies. Seriously, I watched with rapt attention as she screwed up her face in preparation for crying. And when her eyes drooped closed in milk-coma. And I exclaimed at the cuteness of the little tongue always worming its way out. And the spaghetti arms shooting straight up and out of her blanket when she randomly stirred in her sleep. I even watched her eyelids move as she dreamed.

I'm lucky: I don't have to deal with her late nights and explosive poos. To me, she can be perfect, with her head resting fully in the palm of my hand as she sleeps in her favourite position: like a frog, with her legs folded beneath her belly and one drunken arm slung limply over the side. Her long fingers nervously playing an imaginary piano when she stirs.

I can share her warmth and breathe her scent and pat her delicate little back. She is like a precious little doll in my arms. And I didn't want to give her back.

But there was home to get back to. Work to do before heading out today to San Francisco for a conference. And so I handed her back, sad that I won't see her for at least two whole weeks!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life and taxes

So what do you do on a Friday night?

Me? I work late (albeit on a very interesting blog topic - did you know that next week is Idea Week, which culminates in Creativity and Innovation Day on April 21st? Well now you know! And the blog will be live on Tuesday next week, although another author will be credited instead of me.)

Then I bury my nose in my cheesey historical fiction book on the subway. Walk home to warm up yummy leftovers from last night's cook-a-thon (another risotto dish made correctly this time with salmon in a white wine and herb seasoning). Then fire up the crappy chugging computer to finish and eFile my taxes while listening to Star Trek: TNG in the background, yearning to get back to my cheesey novel.

Call my handyman to make sure he's coming over tomorrow.

Yep. I'm cool.

Tomorrow, though, is a big day. Starbucks. Handyman supervising. Gardening if it's not too rainy. Some furniture moving if the stars are in alignment. More cooking. And then time to watch the last episodes of Battlestar Galactica Season 3 so that I can be caught up with the rest of the world. And Sunday? Off to visit my niece, Freya.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, if you haven't heard, we have a name!
Freya Tanis.

Well, at least we can stop calling her "The baby formerly known as the tapeworm."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Still no name yet!

OK, pop quiz: how long does it take to name a baby?

Seriously, my brother and sister-in-law still haven't named their daughter. AND they haven't called me -- the NERVE of them! I mean, seriously, all they have is a brand new play-toy human being that they made. As if they shouldn't be calling me right away to let me know that Kendra is out of the hospital!

OK, maybe they suspect that I'm nerdy enough to be checking and notice that she is posting photos on Facebook and stuff. Hence the picture here.

ISN'T she cute?!
Perfect baby!

And still nameless!
My dad says she looks like a Molly. I like that name. It's cute. I think my dad should just call her that, no matter what they name her. Actually, if we all just start calling her Molly maybe they'll just have to name her that instead of "Fussy TarPoops" like they're considering...

I'm glad they have some Mommy-Daddy time with the girl. But really, they should be considering MY feelings and how anxious I am to know what to call my niece. At least they were nice enough to post some photos for me.

So, do you think they'd be mad if I just camped over at their house for the next week?

Unpacking the bike

Last night, I finally left work early enough that it was still light AND the weather wasn't too bad. So I dug out my bike room key and checked in on the old girl. (OK, she's not even a year old, but she's been stuck in a bike room all winter and wasn't looking so spritely.)

She weathered the winter alright, but her tires were a bit flat. But I jumped on and did the arduous ride with a semi-flat up to the Danforth where I dropped in at Cyclepath -- they have a free air pump.

Once that was taken care of, it was great. It was like I'd never stopped riding: saving $2.50 each way like it was no one's business! It felt really good, but I did wish I'd had my gloves this morning. And it's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow, but it's no big deal, I can just leave it here in the bike room again.

I'm looking forward to riding again. I'm tired of the stinky slow subway with weird people always talking to me, interrupting my reading. However, that said, I will miss the reading. I managed to get through quite a few books this winter. So what if they were trashy historical fiction? I learned a lot about The Tudors. Now it's time to start chipping away at the winter fat.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

She's a girl!

Oh my goodness, I'm an aunt!

She was born somewhere around 5:30pm today. 6lbs, 8oz.

When I saw her in Kendra's arm, all bundled up like a cocoon, I totally lost it. I just overflowed with emotion. I didn't think that I would be like that.

But she's just a wee peanut. Perfect little face with a sweet little puckered up mouth. Long, thin fingers with little tiny fingernails. She was sleeping when I held her and she made those little sighing gurgling sounds that babies make when they're settling in. Her fingers were moving as she slept. Her eyes fluttered open for the barest of seconds. Blue eyes, for now. And a wisp of dark hair.


Kendra was so tired, poor thing. And Matt was proud and excited. Mom bawled and hugged the baby to her. "She's just perfect!" And if you know my mom, it's not like her to emote like that. As soon as she gave the baby back, she jumped up and jumped around the room in excitement. Even my dad got all teary.

It was just an amazing moment. I didn't want to let go.

I just want to be there and be the most important thing to that baby and I have to keep reminding myself: it's not MY baby. But I'm already in love.

Aunt Cathy.

It's go time!

OK, so Kendra just called and her water broke last night and she's in the hospital, awaiting her c-section (stupid baby didn't know which way was out, so it went into the breach position).

My parents are on their way to pick me up and then we're on our way to the hospital.

I'm going to be an aunt soon!

We don't know if it's going to be a girl or boy yet. I can't wait to see it. I can't wait to see what Matt and Kendra made.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Yuri's Night

Tonight, it was a hard decision. Lately, I haven't been going out to do much. Not like I would usually do. Normally, I'd be looking up all the cool stuff around the city and taking part, checking it out, blah blah blah, I'm a joiner-girl. But lately, I've been stay-at-home-girl. Clean-the-house-girl. Watch-TV-girl, even.

But tonight, somehow I found out about Yuri's Night at the Science Centre. It's an international celebration of the first human spaceflight, taken by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in April 1961. Over one hundred Yuri's Night events are planned all over the world. Toronto's is organized by Newmindspace - an organization I've been interested in for some time now (ever since I found out about their light saber battle at the ROM). Tonight will feature space exhibits, guest speakers, dance music, food, drink, and likely some drugged-out teenagers. It's all ages, but I'm really curious to know what it will be like.

My alternative was Timeraiser. Written about in this blog by my colleage Don and edited by yours truly, I thought it sounded like the coolest thing. And totally something that people at work are interested in. In fact, a couple of my colleagues ARE going.

It was a tough choice, honestly.

But other friends of mine made it easier by buying the tickets for Door #1, and so off I go soon to Yuri's Night.

What does one wear to celebrate the first human spaceflight? I mean, aside from silver lame and a space helmet?