Sunday, August 29, 2010

>1'000 miles in 3 days

Friday: San Francisco to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (3 mile hike to Burney Falls) to Lassen Volcanic National Park (1.5 mile hike around Manzanita Lake; 3 mile hike to Bumpass Hell)
Saturday: Lassen Volcanic NP to Patric's Point State Park (5 mile hike along the Rim Trail; walk on the beach)
Sunday: Patric's Point State Park to Trinidad Head (1.5 mile hike on Tsurai Trail) to MacKerricher State Park (1.5 mile hike around Lake Cleone) to San Francisco (mostly via Hwy 1) and partly on the Avenue of the Giants

View NorCal in a larger map

Happy, relaxed and clean back at home :) Photos and descriptions to follow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

photographic proof of our relationship

When you apply for a green card based on marriage with a US citizen, you need to prove that your relationship is real. One suggested way of doing that is to provide photos documenting your relationship and your marriage ceremony. As I spent several hours working on this "photographic documentation" of our relationship, I decided to post it here as well. Otherwise it would just seem as too big waste of a time...

Our trip to India:

Our first two road trips together (my husband loves working so much that it is difficult to convince him to even take a day off...):

Random trips & events in Bay Area:

Traveling in California with my parents:

Our honeymoon:

In the city hall, dealing with marriage formalities:

Our beautiful wedding ceremony:

As you can see we actually do not have too many pictures together. We are just not one of those couples that bothers everybody to take pictures of them... But if only I had know that it would be needed for the green card... ;)


We are trying to decide where to go for Christmas. Europe is out as it will be too cold there, and after this year's SF summer we feel need to warm up a bit. India is out as the flight prices in December/January are just way too high. So we started checking other options and so far the most promising candidates are Costa Rica, Peru and Ecuador.

Initially Peru was leading the race, but as of today, I start to favor Ecuador due to two facts:
  1. Official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar!
  2. No matter what is your nationality, you do not need visa to go there! (Por expresa disposición del Señor Presidente Constitucional de la República, a partir del día viernes 20 de junio de 2008, los ciudadanos de cualquier nacionalidad podrán ingresar al Ecuador, sin necesidad de visa, y permanecer por un período de noventa días, en aplicación del principio de libre circulación de personas y con el fin de fortalecer las relaciones entre el Ecuador y todos los países del mundo, y promover el turismo)
A country with such open tourism policy definitely deserves to be visited.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

bad hiking and basil karma

It seems that recently we have a bad hiking karma. First, the weather in the Bay Area is lousy this summer and skies are often overcast, which significantly limits our hiking options. Second, many of the trails which we plan to hike happen to be closed when we get to them... This happened to us last weekend at Moss Beach, and it happened again today at China Camp SP.

We planned to hike to "Patrick's Point" from where one is supposed to see five(!) of the Bay Area bridges. Unfortunately, the trail leading there (Miwok Fire Trail) is currently closed due to a sudden oak disease. But even if the trail had been open, I am not sure if we would have found it... We were supposed to see it while hiking on the Shoreline Trail, but we didn't. I do not think it was our fault, as in general, it seemed to me that the trail markings in the park were pretty poor and often completely missing.

Once we realized that we won't be able to reach the Patrick's Point, we decided to take an alternative route that was supposed to lead us via the Bay View Trail back to the car. And we also managed to fail at doing that! We managed to get to the intersection of the Shoreline Trail and the Bay View Trail and pick the correct trail there, but then we passed through two unsigned intersections, where clearly we had to make wrong choices as the trail that we picked soon became impassable. We spent at least half an hour scrambling up on a very steep and slippery part of the trail, and finally after Anil slipped and almost fell down a very steep and rocky ridge, we (I) decided to give up and retrace our steps back to the first of the unsigned intersections that we had passed before. There we took the other trail, which also lead us to nowhere. At that time point we started feeling tired and frustrated, and decided to take the shortest way back to our car.

All in all we must have hiked around 8-9 miles today, mostly on the flat terrain. Even though we did not manage to get to the spectacular viewpoint at the Patrick's Point, the park was well-worth visiting. It felt amazing to find a such quiet and secluded place so close to a busy city. Also, it was the best smelling park I have ever been to!

Speaking about karma, it also seems that we do not deserve to eat basil anymore. Two last times that we went shopping to the farmer's market we did not manage to bring basil back home. First time we manage to lose it on the way from the market to the car. Second time, my best of husbands managed to pick up MINT instead of basil... Asked about that, he said he has no idea how basil looks, and that mint was labeled as basil in the shop... Men! What would you do without us, women...

China Basin SP:

Monday, August 9, 2010

musings on becoming an early bird

Thanks to swimming classes that the best of husbands and I are taking together on Mondays at 6:30 am and Wednesdays at 6:00 am, I am slowly becoming an early bird. And I love it!

To my great surprise, the shift was much easier than I had anticipated. Even during the first week I had no problem waking up at 5-6 am, and going to bed at around 10:30-11 pm. Moreover, at least so far, we have managed to stick to this schedule also on the days (including weekends) that we do not have swimming classes.

There are multiple advantages to being an early bird:
  1. Before 6 am there is hardly any traffic, both in the city and on highways, so we waste less time on driving.
  2. I get 2-3 hours of solid work before any other member of my lab shows up! That lets me plan my experiments in peace (piece, just for Alicja) and lets me use all equipment (like microscopes) without any interruptions. Also, having productive mornings puts me in a good mood, and keeps me motivated to work quickly and efficiently for the rest of the day.
  3. Starting working early means going home early, which I love love love! Thanks to that I get several hours of daylight to do whatever I want, and then, when evening comes, I can start working a bit again and/or reply to emails.
  4. On the rare days that you get to sleep longer (like to 8-9 am) you wake up feeling like the king of the world, and you still have a whole day ahead of you!

Honestly, that's a big change for somebody like me, who - in the words of my husband - "experiences a peak of her intellectual capabilities at 12:30 am..." Actually, it is a couple hours later, honey, but you are sound asleep by then :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Weather was so lousy today that instead of hiking to the top of Montara Mountain we went for a short tide pooling expedition at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. We got there at around 8am, which was precisely half time between low and hide tide. Still, we got to see many black turban snails, hermit crabs, green anemones, coralline algae and even one tide pool sculpin. Oh, and we also saw a colony of California seals resting on the beach.

California seals:

Snails and algae:

Green anemone and a hermit crab:

We saw a big land snail too:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Glass Buildings of San Francisco

During the architectural tour we got introduced to two famous glass buildings of San Francisco.

Hallidie Building, the first American building to feature glass curtain walls:

Crown-Zellerbach Building and reflection of Shell Headquarters:

Crocker Galeria

Our architectural walking tour started at a roof-top popos (Privately Owned Public Open Spaces) located next to (and accessible through) the Crocker Galeria. Unbeknownst to me, there are 68 of these semi-secret privately owned public spaces in San Francisco, most of them located downtown, as illustrated here. Most of them are not well marked, even hidden, likely intentionally, so that not too many people can find them.

As we have learned during our tour, each new development in the crowded city space has to have a popos as a way of giving back "green" park space to the city and it's inhabitants. Unfortunately, the developers obey the rule, but make it very difficult for anybody to find a popos and an access to it. Moreover, they usually have an extensive list of rules of the things that are and aren't allowed in popos, and allow access to them only during limited number of hours per week (typically Monday through Friday, 9 to 5). Regardless of all these obstacles, I am planning to skip work one day and go to visit some of them. It will be a true treasure hunt :)

One of the popos:

The entrance to the Crocker Galeria from Post St:

Inside the Crocker Galeria:

Mechanics' Institute Building

Another interesting place that we visited during the architectural walking tour was the Mechanics' Institute building on Post St. As we learned during the tour, the building houses the oldest library on the West Coast, as well as one of the oldest chess clubs in the United States. If I worked downtown, I would definitely get myself a membership there, and come there during lunch time to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet.

The Mechanics' Institute building:

SF chess club:

Spiral staircases are irresistible to the child-photographer growing inside me:

Friday, August 6, 2010

The fanciest bank in San Francisco

During the architectural walking tour we visited the fanciest bank building in San Francisco - the Wells Fargo branch (formerly the Crocker Bank building) located on the corner of Post and Montgomery. When you enter this bank you feel like you were moved back in time to golden years of San Francisco and California, when money was falling down from the sky...

The building and its interior are truly majestic, a feeling magnified by two story-high beautiful ceiling, intentionally dimmed lights, old style desks with bronze ink pens and ink bottles, and marble floors. Unfortunately, it is not allowed to take pictures inside the bank, so you will have to take my word for that. Or even better - go and visit it yourself! (The pictures below were taken from the outside and back of the bank, so they are not fully representative of the beauty of the bank.)

In front of the bank:

Decorated ceiling above the banks' entrance/exit:

Old style desk with current deposit slips:

Super fancy ink bottle:

Peeking into the bank through a metal gate:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

architectural walking tour: 111 Sutter

Even though we asked our friends not to give us any wedding gifts, still some of them could not resist the temptation. However, all gifts that we received were so special and thoughtful, that for a short moment I even regretted that we did not give a chance to our other friends to express themselves through gifts too.

Anne and Sebastian's gift, for example, gave as an opportunity to learn something new about San Francisco during a private guided architectural tour through some of the most interesting buildings in downtown SF. (Thank you so much Anne and Sebastian! Not only we learned a lot from you/the tour, but also we learned how little we know... and how much we still need to learn about our beautiful city.)

The tour, led by Rick Evans, was absolutely fantastic and I would consider it a must for any and every SF resident. Even though there were many long-time SF residents in our party of six, still all of us learned a lot during this tour and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. For me this tour was definitely eye-opening. Since we took it, I stopped rushing through downtown and instead I find myself deriving pleasure from examining the architectural features and decorative details of all buildings I pass. Also, whenever possible, I try to pick inside the buildings and look for hidden treasures.

One such "hidden treasure" that we discovered during the tour, was a building located at 111 Sutter St. Anybody can enter it and take pictures there, so if you find yourself in that neighborhood, do not hesitate to explore it!

The entrance to the building:

Main hall with a gorgeous terracotta ceiling full of symbolism:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks NM

You probably have never heard about Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. At least I didn't until I started researching places worth visiting in New Mexico. And I am so glad that during my random Internet readings I somehow managed to stumble across photos of this beautiful place!

Kasha-Katuwe NM is located more or less half way in between Albuquerque and Santa Fe and is well worth the small detour. We had an absolutely great time exploring the interesting rock formations (see photos below) that form this small park. The tent rocks, as they are called, were formed by the combined force of the volcanic explosion and erosion that is pretty much unique to this place. There are two hiking trails within the park, the canyon trail and the tent rocks and the cave loop, that let you get up and close to the rock formations. We took the canyon trail first, and returned through the tent rocks and cave loop, which took us around 2.5-3h, even though we were stopping often to take pictures and enjoy the views.

Entering the canyon trail:

Newlyweds :)

At times the canyon was getting pretty narrow:

As you climb up the back of the canyon, you can look down on the tent rocks:

Blooming cacti near the end of the trail:

The views from up on the mesa top were absolutely great in all directions! Notice Cochiti Lake in the distance.

Tent Rocks up close: