Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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- Recent Entries:
- Leaving San Francisco
Wednesday in SF
Day After the Launch
Sunday in San Francisco.
Touristy Day in San Francisco
First Night in San Francisco
Night Before the Flight
Henley Pub Crawl with Andy
- Leaving San Francisco
- [Thursday 18th November]
The first couple of days (when Chie had been in San Francisco too) had been sort of fun, and I guess it was nice to have had a bit of late Autumn sunshine, but by today I was very much ready to leave. When I go to Japan now I feel very much at home, and I love to travel around Europe, but somehow I just can't feel relaxed in America, and I'm always itching to get back to good old Blighty as soon as possible.
I managed to get myself a seat in upper class on the way back, which meant a chauffeur driven car at either end as well. Although this wasn't quite as glamorous as I'd hoped - both ways they were pretty ordinary looking cars, a bit grubby around the edges, truth be told. The chauffeurs weren't wearing caps, either.
When I'd booked the car, they'd pretty much just told me the time they were going to pick me up based on my flight time. I ended up arriving at the airport far too early and so wiled away the time in the upper class lounge. I'd flown back from San Francisco once before in upper class, so had been to the "Virgin Clubhouse" at SFO once before, and as such it wasn't so much of a novelty. Still though, it was markedly nicer than the usual experience of waiting around in airports, and I availed myself of a rather nice bowl of mushroom soup, and a succession of non-alcoholic cocktails (somehow the whisky last night had unusually given me a bit of a hangover) - a Shirley Temple, a Virgin Mojito and a Virgin Bloody Mary (the virgin here being non-alcoholic, not the airline's branding). The Shirley Temple was particularly nice - the bloody mary was marred somewhat by the difficulty in explaining to the not-very-worldly American girl working there what I actually wanted (at some point a guy who looked like the chef took over this painful dialogue, and was a marked contrast in terms of professionalism).
The flight was OK I guess (anyone who has been reading my blatherings for a prolonged time will note this is the best I ever say - I really do hate flying you know). Last time I'd flown upper it was on a much bigger plane (maybe it's a seasonal thing) and the bar - six stools - had been occupied the whole time. On this flight the bar only had three stools, and there was only one other guy sitting there for a while before dinner, and then a quick drink after dinner. We exchanged the standard clichéd business trip anecdotes - techniques for combatting jetlag and the relative merits of different international airports - as appears to be expected in this situation. Not long after dinner though, everybody in upper was asleep. I know full well there is zero chance of me sleeping on a plane, no matter how big the seat or how flat it goes. I hung on in the now deserted bar for some time - even the staff had gone and hidden somewhere else on the plane - save to occasionally return and offer a sympathetic "ohhh, can't you sleep?". The range of drinks was
I did eventually retire back to my seat, and knowing full well it would be unsuccessful attempted to get to sleep. I wasn't surprised by the outcome. It seems as soon as I am about to drift off, my brain helpfully interjects with "OH MY GOD I'M ON A PLANE AAAGGHGHHHH!" and no actual sleep ensues.
Watched a couple of films whilst getting increasingly irritated by being surrounded in a dark, lifeless dormitory of my fellow passengers. None of them were any good.
As always I was quite deliriously happy when we came to land, and managed to whizz through customs, security, etc, to where the chauffeur was waiting to take me into central London. I went straight to the office.
- Wednesday in SF
- [Wednesday 17th November 2010]
Everybody working on my project had gone on an "offsite" today to celebrate the launch. For various reasons I decided to not go along. So instead I headed to my company's headquarters in Silicon Valley, having until now confined myself to their smaller office in in San Francisco. It has been three and a half years since I was last there - I just made two trips within the first three or four months of starting this job, back in 2007, and haven't been back since.
They lay on shuttle buses from San Francisco, as a lot of staff live there (which I can quite understand, the area around our headquarters itself is a pretty lifeless bit of suburbia), and having still not really got into a sensible sleeping pattern I was on the 7AM shuttle. There's wifi on onboard, which meant I effectively started work for the day as soon as I got on the bus - coordinating some changes to our production infrastructure with a member of my team who had stayed in London this week.
I had a meeting shortly after breakfast with somebody working on a related project, but after that I had nothing in particular I needed to do - and no-one working on my project was around. So I just spent the whole day "squatting" as people tend to call it in my company - working on my laptop from wherever I could find a free space (which typically tended to be near a coffee machine).
I got the shuttle back just after 4 - given that I could again work on the shuttle on the way back (which takes about an hour) I was pretty satisfied I'd put in a decent day's work.
Given that Chie had flown back on Monday, and my whole team were on their offsite thing, I was going to have to spend the evening by myself. Luckily I generally prefer this to the usual tedious group meals that ensue on business trips. I planned my evening around two things. First, I always like to find whisky bars when travelling around the world (nice to see how my favourite drink is enjoyed in different countries). Second, thanks to Tim's excellent TagWalk, which also pulls in data from Foursquare, I had been looking at the page for Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco, and noticed a lot of people who had checked in there had also checked in at a bar called 21st Amendment. Assuming this to be the regular hang out of Twitter engineers, I was keen to go and see it and see if I could spot any Twitterers (or whatever they call themselves). As a bonus the bar in question brewed it's own beer.
So I started out at 21st Amendment, which was more or less in walking distance from my hotel. Therein I had dinner, after a fashion: some battered onion rings, a salad, and the piece de la resistance - beer and cheese soup. Whilst the onion rings were a challenge to eat, and the salad was unremarkable, I was very excited at the concept of the beer and cheese soup. I think it was predominantly a vegetable soup, with beer used instead of stock, and cheese added presumably at the last minute. I thought this was an inspired idea, which I thoroughly intend to steal, and henceforth pretend it is a British classic.
I didn't get chatting to any Twitter employees, although there were several tables of people who fit the stereotype demographic of software engineers.
Next, I headed to a whisky bar I'd found using Hotpot (hey by the way that just launched this week - cough - cough - ahem ahem - cough) which was called Nihon, and sounded to me like it would be a Japanese style whisky bar - hopefully even ran by Japanese people? Alas it wasn't quite what I'd expected - it was a whisky bar that just happened to also serve Japanese food - but nonetheless the American guy behind the bar was very knowledgeable about whisky and I had a fun time working my way through their whisky selection.
- Day After the Launch
- [Tuesday 16th November 2010]
Another day spent in the San Francisco office, making sure all was running smoothly after yesterday's launch.
In the evening a group meal was organised, which turned out to not be a meal at all, but instead consisted of more standing around eating canapés (as had been the case at the launch event yesterday). Or not eating canapés in my case, as they pretty much all seemed to be meat or fish based. To their credit one of the waiters did eventually figure this out and bring out a plate of some kind of crostini with kale on, but after setting them down on the table behind me other people descended on them like vultures. I think I had approximately three amuse bouches the whole evening, and my bouche was not very amused.
When we left, I attempted to find some actual proper dinner somewhere, remembering that the Mexican place we'd been to on Saturday was nearby, but alas it had already closed. So for the second night in a row I just went back to my hotel without any proper dinner. Hmph.
- The Launch
- [Monday 15th November 2010]
Today was the main event of my trip to San Francisco - we spent the daytime all huddled together in a "war room" officiating over the technical side of launching my project. I'm pleased to say it all went relatively smoothly. It's the first time I've been involved in this kind of big public facing launch and so it was all quite exciting.
Then in the evening we had our big launch event, in the Ferry building in San Francisco. There were several hundred people there, a free bar, a DJ, and of course presentations about the actual product. All very glamorous.
After the launch event some people from my project decided to head to a bar to toast the success of the project and all that, but I instead decided to head off on my own, and visit what I understood to be the oldest bar in San Francisco. It wasn't really my sort of place all told.
- Sunday in San Francisco.
- [Sunday 14th November 2010]
Another day in SF.
- Touristy Day in San Francisco
- [Saturday 13th November 2010]
Quite a touristy day out on the Saturday of our trip to San Francisco, including a boat trip to the Golden Gate bridge.
- First Night in San Francisco
- [Friday 12th November 2010]
So, we were going off to San Francisco for a week. I was there for work - the launch of my project - but as always had been distinctly unenthusiastic at the prospect of the flights, so Chie had very kindly agreed to come along with me for the first few days.
We got the morning flight from Heathrow, which thanks to the timezone difference meant we landed early afternoon in San Francisco. We flew out in economy, but managed to get the exit seats, and chatted to the airline staff who were sitting directly opposite for take off and landing, which helped me take my mind off the unpleasantness of the whole thing somewhat.
Took the Muni train thing from the airport into the city (public transport is perfectly OK in SF as long as you only want to go up and down a single straight line), and were at our hotel a little after 4.
Deciding as always that daylight was important for trying to beat the jetlag, we headed straight out for a wander. The hotel was on the Embarcadero, which meant it was right on the sea front, not too far from the Bay Bridge. Also nearby was the Ferry Building, now a kind of permanent farmer's market thing, which I'd wanted to take a look at as the launch event for my project was going to be held there on Monday.
In an attempt to stay awake, I got a respectable espresso from Blue Bottle Coffee (albeit that the notion of speed the name espresso gives you was somewhat at odds with how long I spent waiting to actually get it) and Chie oddly had some sorbet.
Having left a distinctly autumnal England, I have to begrudgingly admit it was rather nice to arrive in a California that seemed like, for all intents and purposes, it was still in summertime.
In the evening I decided we should try out a pizza place my colleagues in SF seem very fond of - Pizzeria Delfina. Getting there proved a bit of a challenge - we had an early initiation in what would prove to be a week long theme of struggling to get a taxi. We did eventually figure out how to flag one down though (by more or less throwing yourself under the wheels).
We had quite a long wait for a table (hardly surprising for a Friday night!) but - and unusually I'm told for the US - we were able to wait outside with a drink in hand, which was quite pleasant in itself, given the weather. We may have been a bit too tired to thoroughly appreciate the pizza by the time we got to eat - 8:30 California time, which would have been about 4:30 AM in UK time. Still, it was pretty good, but fear not Oliveto, you're still my global number one (I shall, however, allocate Delifina the crown of best in the US).
- Night Before the Flight
- [Thursday 11th November]
Flying really takes it out of me - I'm usually anxious and do not sleep well for anything up to a week beforehand, it usually takes me a week to adjust to the timezone difference when I get there, and a week when I get back. So a week's business trip is a three week period of sleep disruption and general unpleasantness.
In an attempt to have a slightly smoother departure than normal, I actually packed the night before for a change. Usually I end up packing about half an hour before leaving for the airport, having only remembered I needed to wash a bunch of clothes the night before, and in the absence of a tumble dryer needing at least a night (sometimes two) to get everything dry.
- [Wednesday 10th November]
Had a leaving lunch today for a guy I had worked with a little bit in the last couple of months, who was going to work in Chicago (my main question being: Why?!?). One of my colleagues chose Chimes as the venue, and I saw it as a fitting opportunity to introduce an at-least-partly international audience to the delights of perry. It seemed to be generally very well received.
In the evening I was feeling too lazy to cook, I met up with Chie at Victoria, and we considered going for a pub dinner somewhere. After a quick pint at the Jugged Hare we both went off the idea, so instead just went home.
- [Tuesday 9th November]
- [Monday 8th November]
- [Sunday 7th November 2010]
Mixed bag of a day including a late lunch at Maoz (a falafel place on Old Compton Street) and chocolates from Fortnum and Mason.
- [Saturday 6th November 2010]
Went out in the evening to watch to fireworks at Battersea Park from over the river.
- [Thursday 4th November]
- [Wednesday 3rd November]
- [Tuesday 2nd November]
- Belgravia Pubs
- [Monday 1st November]
Bit of a tour of Belgravia's pubs with some people from work today - the Horse and Groom, the Grenadier and the Nag's Head. There were some Japanese people in the Nag's Head with whom I started up a conversation (in Japanese). Pretty sure my colleagues thought I was just showing off. I probably was.
- Harvey Nick's
- [Sunday 31st October 2010]
A late afternoon snack at Harvey Nick's.
- Henley Pub Crawl with Andy
- [Saturday 30th October 2010]
Headed out to Henley for the day for an exploration of the local hostelries with my good friend Andy.
It started very well - I think we met around 2ish, and began with the Angel on the Bridge (probably the most famous pub in Henley?) and then over the bridge to the Little Angel.
The Anchor where we went next was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. It's a lovely old pub of the nik-naks-hanging-from-the-beams variety, which I thoroughly approve of. It was just me, Andy, the pub dog and the lovely old lady behind the bar for most of the time we were there, and she came and sat with us and chatted about pubs and local history. It was also by far the best pint of Brakspear's of the day - really spectacular. Our time here was absolutely blissful.
That made for an impossibly hard act to follow, and I'm not sure I really enjoyed the remainder of the day that much. Some of the remaining pubs were just characterless town pubs really, at least some of which seemed a bit rough around the edges. At the final pub the landlord took a bit of a disliking to Andy, and a bit of an altercation ensued - we decided to call it a day after that.
- [Friday 29th October]