Ovo, thanks to Jonathan Rosenberg

Nice to see that some groups at the big G are still living of "the fatta tha lan'."  Thanks to my friend Chandra, I got to partake in the spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil!  My first proper Cirque show.  Man CDS is really weird, but brilliantly entertaining.  And there's nothing like seeing a bright blue and yellow big top tent rising up in the night sky.

Angel Island Hike

I've looked forward to visiting Angel Island since I took a class on Chinatowns in college and learned about the Chinese poetry carved into the walls of the detention hall at the US Immigration Station.  Finally, last weekend, we went in honor of Sushmita's birthday and it could not have been a more perfect day for the 5-mile, 3-hour hike up to the summit of Mt. Livermore.  Beautifully sunny and clear, except for a foggy portion of the ferry ride over.

The island has several microclimates ranging from what looks like rolling grassland to chaparral to dense forest.  When we turned the corner into the area where our ferry docked, it looked like something out of LOST, with the fog rolling up and over the mountain and dissipating into the bright October air, with greenery embracing the little jewel of a cove that housed several sailboats and a visitor center.
The hike itself wasn't too strenuous--Sushmita and I joke about how our style of hiking should really be called a "leisurely stroll through the woods," and we always take plenty of snacks and a picnic to have as a reward at the top.  Most of the trail led us through shaded forest on the east side of the island, and only the last bit took us to the area that suffered a fire not too long ago.

From the top, we could see a 360-degree view of the entire bay area, from the City, to the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, Marin headlands, Tiburon, Richmond, and all of the east bay.  We had turkey sandwiches, cherry tomatoes, two kinds of cheese, fruit, brownies and--the best part--apple juice in the same juice boxes we had as kids.

On the way down, I was very careful and picked my way around rocks and things to avoid having my knee sublux like it does every once in a while.  From the bottom of the mountain, it was still quite a ways to the immigration station, but it was worth it because I finally got my picture of the poetry in the walls, barely visible after years and layers of paint.  All in all, a great day.

The Music of Braid: the Game

A few weeks ago, Garry, Mark, Sanny and I stayed up until the obscenely wee hours of the morning to play this fantastic and ingenious game called Braid, on the XBox 360.  The game is conceptually profound, created by indie game developer Jonathan Blow (no kidding!), with artwork by David Hellman.  It follows a protagonist, Tim, through various puzzles that explore the flow of time, in different worlds in which time behaves according to different rules:
  • Time and Forgiveness
  • Time and Mystery
  • Time and Place
  • Time and Decision
  • Hesitance
  • World 1
By the way, Braid is quite possibly the most depressing game ever--at least the overarching themes.  The look is a bit like Zelda or Super Mario Bros., but the mood and feel of the game are on a whole different plane, and I attribute that in part to its haunting, gorgeous soundtrack.  It's a bit Celtic or new-age in style, but not super cheesy like a lot of new-age-y music is.  And in the context of the game, it is simply otherworldly, mysterious, and multi-dimensional.  And it's especially bemusing juxtaposed against the relative simplicity of the graphics, yet totally befitting the complexity of the gameplay.

Here are a couple of my favorite tracks, but the whole list of songs from the Braid soundtrack can be found here.

Happy Moving Company

I guess you could say I live in "the barrio" of MV (right next to the Burrito Triangle), but this truck definitely looks out of place.  Yes, the guys are Chinese and yes, they are careful, efficient and pleasant to work with.  I heard them speaking a dialect I couldn't recognize at all. Turns out they are from Hebei province!  Not something you come across every day.

It's only been an hour and they are nearly through with clearing out all the junk I have in my current apt.  $65/hour.  I better tip them well.

Grab-Scrab Victory

This is my friend Grant's favoritest game.  He will play it with anyone at any time.  Because he's very very good at it.

Basically, people (at least two, but no real limit) take turns dealing Scrabble tiles out onto the table.  As you see words come up, you call them out and grab the tiles.  You can combine new letters with existing words to 'steal' words from other players.  You can play with a 3-letter or 4-letter minimum.  Whoever ends up with the most words after you run out of letters, wins.  Sometimes we add up the points attached to each letter to determine the winner.

I am not usually very good at this game because it requires too much of a certain kind of thinking, even though I was a Hist & Lit major in college.  But the other day I played with another friend, and won (for once).  I was so proud of my words that I took a picture.  Yes, I know, I had accidentally put away the F in 'adrift' before I remembered to take the picture.

Arata Farm Straw Labyrinth

Garry and I were driving down PCH towards Pescadero yesterday when we saw this big handmade sign that announced, "Straw Maze."  We looked at each other and said, let's go!  We had no idea what to expect, but we weren't in a rush, so we thought we'd have a little adventure.

The Straw Maze turned out to be a labyrinth that is constructed every year by the men at Arata Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay.  They start building it around March/April every year out of some 1500 bales of hay.  It takes 3-4 months to construct, and every year it is a different design.  They used to only have it up in time for Halloween, their busiest season, but these days they make sure it is ready to go by midsummer so tourists (even local ones like us) can stop by and get a little lost. 
 The owner got the idea because he was born on Crete and wanted to pay homage to his native culture (remember the myth of King Minos?).  We thought that was pretty cool.

Average time to solve the maze is about 30 mins, though we saw a couple that went before us who did it in about 12 min.  Garry and I didn't time ourselves because I actually wanted to explore every nook and cranny in the place, even if I knew it was the wrong way.  It turned out to be a lot of fun.