Thursday, August 28, 2008

skywatch friday, week 3

Another flashback this week:

sunset at the trainyards
Provo, Utah, February 2008

click here to see views captured by other skywatchers around the world

Monday, August 25, 2008

there's something magical about california

Maybe it's the landscape. Or perhaps it's the people.

Maybe it's the weather. Or something in the water.

Maybe it's simply the novelty of actually living here after I was so tired of my old town, the shock of my leap-of-faith move having worked out so well and so quickly, the thrill of starting fresh and making a new home and a new life for myself in a place that I love.

Maybe it's a little bit from all of the above, with a sprinkling of something else that I haven't identified.

Whatever it is that causes it, at least a couple of times a day I find myself suddenly re-cognizing the fact that I am here, and that I don't have to catch a flight back home in a couple of days, because I live here now. It's like waking up from a really good dream to find that it was real, after all.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

house hunting

Rather a telling name for a real estate company, if you ask me.
[Menlo Park, California]

Friday, August 22, 2008

and now for something lighter

Paulette Huntinova (aka Paul Hunt) at the 1988 USA-USSR Gymnastics Summit:

(if you liked that, check the youtube vaults for his beam & bars routines)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

skywatch friday, week 2

[by California Avenue Caltrain station, Palo Alto]

check out others' skywatch posts here

proposition w8 - think before you vote

[My first skywatch post last Friday brought several new visitors to my blog. Maybe this post will attract some attention as well...]

I have a tendency to keep quiet about controversial topics, especially political issues, but I just can't ignore this one any longer.

I confess: before I moved to California I didn't know what "Proposition 8" was. Not that I didn't know what was going on; it's just that it wasn't exactly a buzzword where I was living just a few weeks ago.

I quickly caught on, and just as quickly I became perturbed.

And I have been struggling to sort out my thoughts about it.

Now, I could pretty easily sidestep the issue and avoid taking a position at all: because I am not a California resident, I will not be able vote on Proposition 8 anyway, so there is no direct impact on the law effected by my unofficial "yes" or "no." But that doesn't mean that I am not affected. It doesn't mean that I do not care.

So what is it that sets me off about proposition 8? It is the context in which I have been bombarded with cries from supporters, many of whom are uninformed.

First things first: I don't want to create any hurtful misunderstandings here, so let me make it clear that I love my church and I respect my church leaders. In fact, being a part of the church has been a great blessing especially since I have moved to San Francisco, where I have found myself instantly embraced by a supportive social network. Read: great way to make new friends when you're new in town. It was at a church-group gathering on a Monday evening, just three days after I moved to the city, that I made some new friends and re-connected with someone I had met years ago, who just happens to live here in town. It was at that same gathering that I first heard of the Protect Marriage Coalition, an interfaith group dedicated to garnering support for proposition 8. I have no problem with a person's support of and participation in this group: it is their democratic right to choose a position and to act upon it as they see fit. I do have concerns about a person's
uninformed support of this or any politically-purposed group.

The pattern goes like this: A announces that he's become aware of the Coalition, he thinks that we might be interested, and he encourages us to make donations. B and C think that's great and they take forms home so that they can send their money off to this cause that must be good because A thinks it is. Then D over here asks a simple question: 'how are the funds used?' And A does not know. It's a classic case of being caught not having done your homework. A is not the only one. I dare to say that we have all, at some point or another, made a similar mistake, being caught up in the moment, speaking out too soon, before we are adequately prepared to support whatever it is we think we're supporting. The question is: do we learn from those mistakes? I am worried that we do not; and worse, that many go on silently, blindly, deceptively sure of their positions, when they really have no idea what the implications of their hasty decisions may be.

I feel very uneasy about the dangerous mingling of church and state going on here. A perfectly harmless Facebook announcement for a Bay Area YSA party takes on a sour aftertaste with an addendum noting that they will be collecting donations for the Coalition. The attendance roll is passed around in relief society, and on the facing page is a sign-up sheet for a 'precinct walk for prop 8,' unaccompanied by any telling information about what one's participation in such an event might mean.

It is important to remember that just because a particular behavior is sanctioned by law does not necessarily mean that it is sanctioned by God. We may accept the church's position on the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, but that does not mean that we must deny the right to a legally-binding contract (read: sanctioned and protected by the state, not the church) between two men or between two women. And again, supporting a law does not necessarily mean that you personally condone what the law allows.

What we as Latter-Day Saints believe we must do and what the law of the land allows are not mutually exclusive. Legal same-sex marriage does not mean illegal heterosexual marriage. If by some freak chain of events the U.S. came to a point where there was to be a vote on a law that would criminalize heterosexual marriage, then yes, I would have a problem with that. But if our nation came to such a wild improbability, my guess is that we would have lots of other problems to worry about, too.

I had other thoughts, beginnings of thoughts, here in draft form, but they were not yet fully formed, and I would still like to do some more research. So I have chosen not to publish here something that I am likely to later regret and/or recognize as foolish. In a less-public forum, however, I would be happy to discuss and learn more about the nuances of the issue.

It is a difficult decision. All I ask is that people really think about it, and consider the possible consequences of both outcomes, before they vote on it.

A few resources to get started:
proposition 8 on ballotpedia
lds newsroom
protect marriage coalition
mormons for marriage

Monday, August 18, 2008

so happy

("so happy" dahlias at golden gate park)

Okay, I wanted to wait until it was official, so I filled out the paperwork today and I can now announce that I got a job, and one that I am quite excited about at that. I am really rather shocked by how quickly things fell into place and I am looking forward to what should prove to be a terrific experience. I am just delighted to be in this area and to have a new purpose. At last I feel like I really belong just where I am.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

too bad i didn't have a pedometer

This is mostly to satisfy my own curiosity as to the question of just how far I walked on Wednesday, when the gorgeous weather lured me out to go traipsing all over the city. Maybe you care, too; maybe you don't. But after all, this is my blog, so I'm going to share the rundown anyway (distances courtesy of google maps):
  • 1.3 mi - home to sf public library
  • 2.4 mi - sf public library to golden gate park via mcallister & fulton
  • 2.3 mi - wanderings through gg park ending up at 19th & lincoln (distance is approximate, since i have no idea what exact path i followed)
  • 0.5 mi - 19th & lincoln to 16th & judah lightrail stop
  • 0.4 mi - church & duboce lightrail stop to home
  • 0.1 mi - home to 16th & church lightrail stop
  • 0.6 mi - 22nd & church lightrail stop to papalote (yummy mole burrito at 24th & valencia)
  • 1.2 mi - papalote to home
  • 0.4 mi - home to church & duboce lightrail stop
  • 0.3 mi - 23rd & judah lightrail stop to 22nd & lawton (church bldg for institute)
  • 0.4 mi - home to safeway (to get aloe lotion for the burn that came of all that walking in the sun!)
...which gives us a grand total of 9.9 miles. No wonder I was sore the next morning! But it felt great. It would be nice to always have that luxury of taking all the time in the world to walk wherever I want. I guess that's what vacations are for.

Friday, August 15, 2008

go uzbekistan go!

In our post-Renaissance society, there is a tendency to value most highly the man or the woman who is the best at everything, but my personal preference in Olympic gymnastics is not for the all-around competitions but for the individual event finals. This is where several relatively unknown gymnasts get their chance to shine, if but for one brief moment, on their element of expertise. True, often the all-around best gymnast figures prominently in these competitions as well, but there is also a good chance that a medal-winning performance on any given apparatus is delivered by a gymnast who did not even qualify for the all-around final.

I have been supplementing the primetime network coverage of Olympic gymnastics, which isn't quite enough for me, with video footage from, whose video offerings essentially allow you to watch every minute of every competition, with the option of focusing on a particular apparatus or a particular grouping of gymnasts. While I haven't the time to watch all of it, I have seen some excellent performances from the preliminary competition that didn't make it to primetime. So, I have my eye on some specific gymnasts that I will be looking out for in the event finals. Most of them are on neither the American nor the Chinese team; indeed, many of them come from countries which do not have a full team competing in this year's Olympic gymnastics competition.

Take a look at my favorite contender on my favorite men's event, at last year's world championships. Not the best quality video, but just try and tell me that's not beautiful gymnastics.

All of my picks, by event:

Floor - Diego Hypolito (Brazil)
Pommel horse - Alexander Artemev (USA)
Rings - Matteo Morandi (Italy)
Vault - Leszek Blanik (Poland)
Parallel bars - Anton Fokin (Uzbekistan)
High bar - Epke Zonderland (Netherlands)
Vault - Anna Pavlova (Russia)
Uneven bars - He Kexin (China)
Balance beam - Nastia Liukin (USA)
Floor - Daiane Santos (Brazil)

For reference, here are the individual event rankings for men and women.

Gymnastics event finals are spread out over three days of competition: Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I'll be watching; will you?

skywatch friday: the inaugural etxerantz edition

I have recently become aware of the Skywatch Friday concept since I have been following the stunning work over at San Francisco Daily Photo (thanks for the inspiration). I am fairly obsessed with the sky, and I know that it will not be difficult to find sky-themed photos in my library, so I thought that it would be fun to join up with the skywatch community.

Since I have posted several recent photos here in non-skywatch-specific contexts, for my first skywatch post here is a flashback to my former life in Utah Valley.

Provo City Power, May 2008.

[check out the other skywatch friday posts, linked here]

another reason why i love this city

Yesterday I decided to go explore Golden Gate Park. I really wanted to see the bison, but I'll have to go back another day for them because I didn't make it that far. I was on foot, and I had come on foot from the library downtown, and the park is huge. Inside the park are several museums, conservatories (the plant kind, not the music kind), lakes, sports fields, playgrounds, specialized gardens, picnic grounds, and so on. Oh, and of course the buffalo paddock. Seriously. Buffalos (ok they're really American bison, but who can tell?) in the middle of the city.

All throughout the park there are roads for motor vehicle traffic and countless paths for walking and biking. Few places can make me feel so content as a woodland path carpeted with pine needles. And the smell! A mingling of redwood and eucalyptus and I don't even know what other fresh greenery. Oh, it's lovely.

A side effect of having discovered for myself this marvelous place is a really (in many ways) brilliant sunburn. My face got sunscreened in the morning but my arms, unfortunately, were neglected. And you know, even when it's very sunny, you don't realize that you're getting burned when the air temperature is only about 75 degrees. It's a few hours later that it hits you. And then you run over to Safeway at 10 at night because you know you won't sleep well without some concentrated aloe vera gel, only to find that they're all out and you have to settle for an inferior aloe-tinged lotion.

If you are at all familiar with my photographic tendencies, you know that I have a particular penchant for photographing flora. Tree trunks, flower blossoms, curiously-shaped succulents, weeds gone to seed, you name it, and if it belongs to the plant kingdom, I'd love to take a picture of it. And Golden Gate Park is a fine place for introducing your camera to some lovely plant specimens. Take a look:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

is their mascot really a pine tree?

Last week I went down to Stanford for a job interview. The last time I had been to the Stanford campus was many years ago, before I went to college, and the only image that stuck with me from that visit was of the iconic Hoover tower.

Well, on my second visit I was struck with the beauty of the place and I could not understand why at least some general impression of its gorgeousness hadn't stuck with me from the first time I saw it. Maybe the loveliness of the place was intensified by the contrast in weather conditions--when I left San Francisco in the morning it was foggy and cool, but in Palo Alto it was sunny and about 78 degrees Fahrenheit--and by the stunning views that accompanied the drive down the peninsula. At any rate, I was impressed. I mean, palm trees and pine trees all in one place? Could it get any better?

Friday, August 8, 2008

cout << "blog post title";

When I was in high school I took a couple of computer programming classes. Why? I'm not really sure, probably just because they were there and I could. I did really well in them (once I got my projects done at the end of the semester...) and we had fun in the class: it was a great group, including one of my favorite people ever that I never get to see anymore. I also remember such highlights as seeing the C++ for You++ book on the shelf in the classroom, catching a glimpse of our Australian teacher's decades-old green card, and being introduced to and sb emails. Then the AP tests got me extra credits toward earlier registration dates in college. But it wasn't until just now that I recognized an extra perk of having dabbled in C++.

Not too long ago I applied for a non-technical position at a software company. They have a unique hiring process that involves several phases carried out over a period of a couple of months. I have cleared the first few hurdles and I was checking an online forum for information about what comes next and how much longer the whole process might take (since I can't stay unemployed in San Francisco for long and I would hate to miss out on another good option because I'm waiting for this one which may not be a sure thing anyway... see my conundrum? I guess it's nice to have options, even if they are still open-ended) and I found this (sorry! I can't make it any bigger here without making it blurry. Click on it and it will magically become magnified):

Okay so it's not really all that funny on its own; mostly I was just really tickled that I understood it. And then I felt kind of nerdy. But I'm okay with that. Kudos to you, fellow nerd, if you get it. (And if you don't, you can probably manage a smile of amusement at those usernames, anyway.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

etxerantz sanfransiskon

It has been a week since I left Provo for good.

Last Wednesday I flew from Salt Lake to Oakland and then drove from Oakland to Elk Grove (near Sacramento). Okay so really my dad drove. Minor details. In Elk Grove we unpacked an embarassing number of suitcases and packed their contents in boxes which we then left in a storage facility, also known as the spare closet in my grandmother's house. On Friday we put the (mostly) empty suitcases in the car and drove back to the Oakland airport, where we returned the car, took the AirBART shuttle to the BART station, and rode the train into San Francisco, all the while lugging five large suitcases. Like I said, most of them were empty, but most of them were also of nearly identical size, so they weren't exactly convenient in the way that seven Russian nesting dolls conveniently combine into just one. Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that we stopped at Vacaville on the way back to Oakland, for two very worthy causes: a Banana Republic outlet and an In-N-Out burger.

We arrived in SF and were greeted by my sister, her husband, and the cutest kid ever, also known as Jack. We dined lavishly at La Taquería (not that it's fancy, but oh so tasty), and from Mission Pie across the street we picked up dessert to take home: peach-blackberry pie and plum frangipane tarts. Yum!

I have been pretty busy this week with job interviews (hooray!) so that's my excuse for not having posted a single blog entry until now. There will be more to come soon, I promise. For now, enjoy the views...

...from the road between Sacramento & Oakland, near Vallejo/Benicia.
An oil refinery of sorts, I suppose, but it's more fun to use your imagination.
I like the shapes.

...from my window in San Francisco.

...from the back deck.

...of Mission Dolores with pink clouds at sunset.
This is the same building that you can see glimpses of in the view from my window.

...of Mission Dolores with lights at dusk.