Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mountain View

I drive here two days a week to work. It's a long commute. Long as in more than an hour each way.

The good news, great news really, is that I like Mountain View. It's home to 75,000 people including Seth and Lori, who I hope to see more of. My office is on Castro Street, the main drag, and out the door is the performing arts center. A Posh Bagel is on the ground floor of our high rise, a bonus for me as I am in the office at 7am. There are restaurants and independent book stores and coffee shops. There are Chinese Herbalists and two music stores. There's a fish store, which is different than a fish market.

Mountain View has an ethnic diversity that my suburb does not. People smile as they walk down the street. They push strollers. They are young and they are old. They carry library books.

CALTRAIN stops near my office and I see people get off the train with their bikes then ride over the 101 to the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field. I'd like to commute that way.

It's the things you never expect.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interviewing and The Bachelorette

As you know, I just landed my next gig. It didn't turn out to be a gig after all; it's a full-time, in-house job. During the 12 years I spent consulting, I was always subtly selling myself. It's a natural part of networking and lining up your next project.

So, when I interviewed for this job I didn't view the process as a one-sided Q&A session. It was simply conversations, a bit about me, a bit about the company, much more about the industry, market opportunity and the challenges the company is trying to solve. It's a lot like going to coffee with a friend except that I prep and doll up.

While I had this new mentality, I realized how much the traditional job hunt has in common with the TV show no one admits they are addicted to: The Bachelorette. The Bachelorette's goal is to find the perfect husband. The Employer's goal is to find the perfect hire.

The initial selection.
  • The Bachelorette chooses from 25 pre-selected men.
  • The Employer weeds through many resumes.
Narrowing down the playing field.
  • The Bachelorette talks to all the men and eliminates suitors who dis their previous amours via a dramatic rose ceremony.
  • The Employer screens the candidates by phone and eliminates the ones who say rude things about their previous employers.
The challenge.
  • The Bachelorette puts the men through exercises such as boxing, zip lining, and a mock wedding to test their mettle.
  • The Employer drills the candidates on how they would handle situations such as witnessing an employee using the color laser printer to create the Star of the Week poster for their kindergartener.
The suck up.
  • The Bachelorette tries to sell the bachelors on why she is the best thing since the advent of the Internet.
  • The Employer tries to sell the prospective employee on their company culture (we have Segway races at lunch and bagels on Friday mornings!), their promote from within philosophy (nearly always BS), and their benefits package (yes, domestic partner healthcare coverage).
The confirmation.
  • The Bachelorette expects and looks for signs that the men are all about her, even though she is dating more than one of them. Failure to profess that the Bachelorette is the be all, end all results in the Bachelorette depriving the man of a rose.
  • The Employer expects and looks for signs that the candidate is only interested in them. Failure sell the Employer on their devotion to the potential employer results in questioning the candidate's interest in the position.
The offer.
  • The Bachelorette selects the man she wants to marry and hopes he proposes.
  • The Employer extends a job offer and hopes the candidate accepts it.
And they all live happily ever after. Maybe.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baseball, Brad & Benefit

Eldest Daughter and I were lucky enough to attend the Moneyball Premiere in Oakland Monday night.

In case you've been hiding under a rock, Moneyball is Brad Pitt's new film about the Oakland A's 2002 season. Pitt plays Billy Beane, the A's general manager, who is forced by budget constraints to take a controversial, statistics-based approach to field his team. The movie is based on the book by Michael Lewis, who also wrote The Blindside.

The event, held at the Paramount Theatre, benefited Children's Hospital Oakland. Once we got inside, we positioned ourselves adjacent to the front door and greeted Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who I've loved since The Talented Mr. Ripley, and many of the current players, including David DeJesus. Hometown hero Sully was there as were some suburban mommies. The theatre lobby was packed, not surprisingly, and admission bought as many designer cocktails as one could consume during the hour before the movie.

I was wearing a skirt, heels and a lot more eye makeup than I usually wear, courtesy of Eldest Daughter's heavy hand.

Eldest Daughter wore heels and white jeans. The A's Wives were channeling The Housewives of New Jersey. The majority of men wore jacket and tie, and were accompanied by women in black cocktail dresses with Louboutins or Tabitha Simmons.

It had been many years since I'd been to the Paramount Theatre. In fact, Eldest Daughter and I were last there to see The Wiggles. The 1930s building remains a stunning piece of Art Deco architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Even Eldest Daughter commented on the grandeur of the bathrooms.

Fortunately, Dave and Eldest Daughter did not end up on the cutting room floor. The scene they shot as extras made the big screen version. This is Dave's second movie and Eldest Daughter's first.

The premiere boiled down to this: the director introduced and thanked the contributors, some of whom he brought up on stage. Enter Brad Pitt to deafening (and well deserved) applause. Then they rolled the film. We watched it and then we left.

It's a good movie. I like baseball and I like the A's. And I feel a smidge romantic about baseball after seeing this film, the same way you do after your team wins the series.

Thanks Brad!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Olympic Seoul Chicken

Thing 1 had this for dinner at her friend Emma's house and raved about it. It is very good and easy to make, too. Enjoy!

Adapted from Arthur Schwartz, author of Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food and Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking.

¼ cup (60ml) rice vinegar (unseasoned)
3 tablespoons (45ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
1-inch (3cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
8 chicken thighs, skinned
10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1½ teaspoon chili powder (I used cochutgaru, but any will do)
a handful of chopped green onions, including the dark green part

1. Mix together the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and ginger.

2. Heat enough oil in a large skillet until it just covers the bottom. When it’s hot and shimmering, sauté the chicken thighs until well-browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.

4. Pour in the vinegar mixture, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until done. While the thighs are cooking, turn them a couple of times in the marinade.

5. Once they’re done, remove the cover, add the green onions, and cook for another minute or so, until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve with rice, kimchi, toasted nori, or any other accompaniments. Also good with a pile of steamed green beans drizzled with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I like to build.

There's exciting news beyond the seven pair of shoes I bought this summer. (There. It's out for the whole blogosphere to see. I demonstrated exceptional self-restraint in Italy. You may leave your heartfelt kudos in the comments section.)

And now the scoop: I've gone back in house. This is also known as taking a full-time job or becoming a company employee. It certainly wasn't my plan but this company looked like so much fun and I have a big opportunity to make a difference (in that technodweeby sort of way).

The company is called SOASTA. It rhymes with toaster, if you're from Boston. A former colleague referred me.

Two interesting opportunities presented themselves. Although they were night and day in the marketing world, they were both at the intersection of good money and things I enjoy. In the end my brother said something that made sense: You like start ups. I do like start ups. I did three successful ones before The Pinks were born. I like to build. To create. To sit at the table. (Thank you Sheryl Sandberg.)

Today I begin my new journey.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I'm glad Hillary lives in Singapore now.

Sort of.

Hillary is one of my college friends and she, her husband and her daughter moved to Singapore in July. They previously lived in Manhattan, where Hil has lived since college.

9/11 took a huge emotional toll on her. It took a toll on all of us but especially on those who lived and worked in New York City. She lived it. I watched it on TV.

I have been running on my treadmill, often while watching TV. On Friday I did not think I could finish my training program; I was tired and hot. But then, on the Today Show, came the disturbing footage of the Twin Towers collapsing and of the ensuing chaos. I completed my workout, running like I was there, running from the horrifying scene. I ran until I could no longer breathe.

So while I wish Hillary were still just a six-hour flight from me, I'm glad she will be spared the experience of rehashing the horror in Manhattan.

We shall never forget.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Smells of Summer

Summer is nearly over on the calendar. The kids are back in school so the season is over in their minds. I will miss the smells.

Peaches. On the counter one day before spoiling.

Sun baked babies. Sun-warmed children covered in sunscreen, slightly sweaty.

Freshly cut grass. Followed by the a sound: sneezing.

Moisture, slightly sweet. In the air before the morning fog burns off.

Basil. Walking through the Farmer's Market.

Cleats. Soccer practice has begun.

Roasting tomatoes. Tomatoes arrived on the late side this season and we are buried with them now.

Air conditioned air. The slightly sweet odor in your car.

Are there any smells that you associate with Summer?


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Reading

It was a good summer for reading!

Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand managed to best Seabiscuit. When is the movie forthcoming? I was a bit put off by all the details in the first 50 pages and almost gave it up. But I kept reading because everyone raved about this book and once I got further into the story, I realized why the author devoted so many pages to Olympic and World War II statistics. Wow. She is a master researcher. The true story of Louis Zamperini, a juvenile delinquent cum Olympic runner cum POW cum Army hero, is fascinating and unlikely. I kept asking myself, "Why did he choose to live during these circumstances instead of doing the easier thing and dying?" If you can get through 600 pages, it's a great read.

The Imperfectionists. I kept looking for a plot in Tom Rachman's debut novel about an English language newspaper in Rome. It didn't exist. But the writing is good and the characters were quirky enough to keep my attention. I read it in Villa Bartolomea, which added to the experience.

Dreams of Joy. This is Lisa See's follow on to Shanghai Girls, which I loved. I did not love the first part of this book but, like Unbroken, 50 pages in I was hooked to the point of putting off non essential things to get through it. It's about a mother and a daughter, Communist China during the late 1950s and dreams. It's an exceptional read provided you read and enjoyed Shanghai Girls.

Little Bee. Chris Cleave's story is of a Nigerian woman who flees the horrors of her own country and becomes a refugee in England. It's dramatic, sad and gory in places. And it made me think long after I finished it. It makes you consider the world and your place in it. Highly recommended.

The House in France. Gully Wells name drops too much in her memoir and, not being a part of London's liberated circle of intellectuals in the 1960s, I was unimpressed. However, her writing is solid and pithy. (I love the word pithy. I want my own writing to be pithy.) It's a good look into her life in the south of France, London and New York in the 1960s and 70s, complete with all the details of adultery, philosophical discussions, discos, drugs and food. An interesting but not especially deep read. My recommendation: skim the British politics and focus on the characters, which are straight out of central casting.

Get Out of my Life. But first can you drive me and Cheryl to the mall? A parenting book recommended by a friend whose oldest is in college and whose youngest just started kindergarten. Two takeaways here: they will eventually outgrow this selfish, unreasonable stage and don't bother getting into extended debates with them. Eldest Daughter was concerned when she saw this on my nightstand. She does not like when I study up on parenting.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Friend Paris!

There were three My Friend Paris book events this summer!

Thing 1 read Paris Goes to Los Angeles at READ in Danville. More than 60 people came to the event, including her 3rd grade teacher and some former classmates. Most impressive was our college-aged neighbor toting the trio of very young children she is nannying this summer and another very young neighbor. After the event friends and family joined us for lunch at the playground adjacent to the book store.

Jenna, Paris' first cousin who wrote Paris Goes to Los Angeles, had her launch party at King's Fish House in Calabasas. Bruce, Kris, Kendall, Kylie, Kim, Kourtney and Khloe had other plans that day. A good crowd came to support Jenna, including our friends from Manhattan Beach who'd just joined us in Italy. This took place the day after the girls returned from two weeks at sleep-away camp.

And finally, Thing 1 read Paris Goes to San Francisco at the Boudin Bakery flagship store in San Francisco. The bakers made extra teddy bear sourdough loaves for the occasion - Thing 1's favorite.

Boudin did a great job promoting the event. The book has its own display in the store and every now and then friends text us pictures they've shot when discovering it.

It's been a big summer of publicity for the My Friend Paris series. If you still need copies you can buy them on Amazon.