Saturday, August 25, 2012

She was boring.

My friend said this to me recently, talking about someone she'd recently broken bread with.

I knew the woman she was talking about and I agree, she's rather vanilla, although the thought hadn't occurred to me until she mentioned it.

What makes someone not boring? Interesting hobbies? Engaging stories? Humor? A visible passion for something, anything?


I used to work with a woman who was pee-in-your-pants funny. She was completely and unapologetically selfish and her observations were often spot-on but things you'd never say out loud if your parents raised you with any sense of decency. She was not boring in the slightest.

As an aside, I'm beginning to think you are either born with the humor gene or not. My dad and cousin David are funny, and they have the same sense of one-line humor. One of The Pinks says the funniest things.

One of my fairly new friends has an interesting backstory. Actually a bunch of my friends do. They're not Americans. They've lived outside the US. They've traveled to unusual places and will eat weird food without a second thought. Or they grew up in non-traditional families or have overcome tough odds to land on their feet. Dave tells me that none of my friends are alike. Maybe I am bored with people like myself?

I love the picture above, taken at our house Thanksgiving 2009. I am thankful for friends and family. And the people in this picture are all interesting. There are as many non-Americans as there are Americans. Dave and I like hosting an eclectic Thanksgiving -- the more the merrier.

Thing 1 tells me that she likes living in a small town because it's friendly and you often see people you know. I'd much prefer the diversity, the anonymity, of a large city.

In business and in social situations, it seems that unboring people are good storytellers. Jim is an amazing storyteller. You can visualize the people in his stories and he is dang funny. I think back to his stories days later. I wonder if Jim tells stories at work, too.

My CEO is a good storyteller. He comes up with clever lines and memorable quips during every conversation we have. Is this a common thread binding serial entrepreneurs?

Dave is naturally on, a natural people person. When we go out and I'm not in the mood I remind myself that I need to be on, that if I accept a social invitation it's my responsibility to bring it.

Thoughts?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Go climb a rock.


That's the Yosemite Mountaineering School slogan, the one seen on t-shirts around the world.

And that's just what we did with The Pinks.

Day One: Drive to Yosemite Valley. We're told it's four hours from our house so of course we think we can do it faster than that. Nope. Summer traffic. A gutless-but-fuel-efficient Prius and windy, two-lane roads without guard rails. Night One was spent in relative luxury in a cottage at The Ahwahnee. Tech trivia: Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell married here in 1991.

We swam and played in the river. Don't underestimate the thrill of rock skipping, glacier-created sand between your toes and fast-moving snowmelt on a scorching day. Deer and squirrels were everywhere. The kids couldn't believe that the deer barely gave them a glance. Dave took a tour of the historic hotel, which opened in 1927 so wealthy people would come visit and see how worthwhile their support of this park was. Dolled up. Dinner with friends. And other friends. The sun went down and the kids played flashlight games with people atop Glacier Point, 3,200 feet above us and the valley floor.

The Pinks showed the appropriate amount of awe at the Valley. Unprompted. It'd easily been 20 years since I'd been to the park and it's magnificent. Granite rising from the valley floor. I doubt I thought the same when my dad forced me to backpack lengths of the John Muir Trail during my formative years. My friend and I traded backpacking stories. All these years I thought I was the only one who cried on the trail, and it wasn't from the sheer beauty of the surroundings, either.

Day Two: Breakfast in the hotel dining room. The ceiling is 34' high and supported by immense sugar pine trestles. Fortunately there is no dress code for breakfast because two of three kids dined in their pajamas. Hike to the base of Vernal Falls. Beautiful. Hot. Many people doing the same thing. The chances of us getting heatstroke were less than of us getting trampled. Visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery.

Depart Ahwahnee for Tuolomne Meadows, up at 8,900 feet. Shoot requisite picture of The Pinks at Half Dome Overlook. Stop at Tenaya Lake for Yosemite Conservancy ribbon cutting ceremony at East Beach. Sand play for kids. My fish friend, an accomplished open water swimmer, went for a dip while we played on the beach. She didn't even have the decency to shiver or to breathe hard after doing a fast mile in the 51F lake. No wetsuit, either. And then came the rain. Head for Tuolomne Meadows Lodge.

Lodge is tent cabins with bear boxes, cots, wood stoves, and a communal bathroom. Eat protein-heavy dinner in dining room, the only option. Witness numerous backpackers come to Lodge hoping for a dry room for the night. No such luck. Rain eventually stops. Play in Merced River. Spend evening making s'mores and laughing. Doze off and on all night wondering if sound outside cabin is bear or deer and if we should have put our toiletries in the bear box, like the Bear Aware Policy suggested.

Day Three: Eat flapjacks and bacon in dining room. Fishing at two different lakes. Bag lunches. Explain to kids Tree Line. Notice that fishing spots at elevation 10,000 feet are making it hard to breathe. Drive back to Bay. Sleep like the dead in my own bed.


Monday, August 13, 2012

The Orchard

My cousin works at The Orchard. We carpool one day a week so I hear a lot about it. She likes The Orchard and has worked there for four years. It is 60 miles from her house. Assuming she works 48 weeks a year, that's 115,000 miles she's put on her car just commuting. In actuality it's a bit less because she sometimes takes the gbus and sometimes I drive. Still, that tells you how special The Orchard is.

Today I had a chance to see The Orchard. If you read carefully, you'd have a small clue that The Orchard is part of Google, one of its childcare facilities.

Wow. It was like Camp Galileo only better. I seriously wanted to stay and play. Of course it was quiet when I toured at 7am and it doesn't stay that way for long.

We entered through the staff kitchen, which was stocked with healthy, packaged snacks, fruit and cereal, drinks, boxed, refrigerated salads and sandwiches, and yogurt. There were probably other things I didn't see, too.

And then we walked into the children's space. Any child would love it there. It was like Habitot or other children's museums. Children's art on the walls. Stations for gardening, reading, cooking, sculpture, dress up, building, resting, sorting, painting, drawing, clay. It was colorful. And clean. There are teeny tiny wooden tables with teeny tiny wooden chairs. No plastic. There are shelves upon shelves of color sorted buttons and crayons and markers and feathers and glitter and pipe cleaners and ribbons and fabric and bottle caps and popsicle sticks. And each room was done like this!

There are three separate age-appropriate outside play areas and a garden, where the children plant  and harvest their own food. Which of course they then eat. There's a huge, freeform sand box and a mud box and an inches-deep river. The play structures look like Michael Graves designed them.

A dedicated Google department preps the children's food on the main campus then finishes it up on site at The Orchard . It is nutritionally balanced and aesthetically pleasing. There are shelves of Earth's Best baby food in the children's kitchen (not to be confused with the staff kitchen) for the babies.

The learning philosophy is Reggio Emilia, a self-guided curriculum based on responsibility, respect and community via the child's interests and enrichment. To me it just looks like straight up fun.

Seriously, people, if you are inclined to work full-time and have little kids, put Google on your short list. I understand now why my cousin commutes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Olympics are killing me.

It's summer. The kids are up late. We are, too, watching the Olympics. The kids sleep in and I get up early to work or work out. It's a good thing they only last two weeks. I will need a vacation after this.

My favorite sport used to be gymnastics. Now it's synchronized diving. The higher the platform the better. I watched kayaking today. Yawn. Pole vaulting was pretty impressive. Is it a big sport for short Jews? I must research.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Girl walks into a bar.

Jen and I giggled like young schoolgirls when we were waiting for Kim. At The Ship, no less, an ale house at the corner of Battery and Pacific in San Francisco dating back to 1851, two years into the Gold Rush.

Girl walks into the bar. Her smile could easily span the 8-state-divide which usually separates us. She is blonde curls and turquoise eyes and Jen and I attach ourselves to her with a death grip for the rest of the evening.

Fortunately Jen and I are with good men, men who knew their role was to keep Kim's husband occupied while the three of us chattered nonstop on topic ranging from attachment parenting (we are way over it) to discipline (we are fans of it) to other Feb Moms (proud of our nationally ranked triathlete). Jen and Kim have the same quick, biting sense of humor. I am good at laughing.

The six of us ate mostly cow at 5A5 and took advantage of the last few days of foie gras' availability in California. Our visitors were quite adventurous and tried taco (octopus) salad and the lychee and berry palate cleanser.

Thank you, Kim, for taking on a client in the Bay, and for playing with us!