Atta Ikede

July 27, 2008

My favourite coffee shop

Filed under: San Francisco — attaikede @ 11:29 am

My favourite coffee shop here is this place called La Boulange. It’s the restaurant offshoot of a bakery chain.

It’s not actually a coffee shop .. it’s more of a simple restaurant going for a simple French vibe. Mm.. that place is delicious! They have this really delicious vegetable tart that I usually get. mmm .. so flaky .. has 2 colours of zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and a bit of pesto nestled in there. mm.. I ate two pieces today. They also have decent coffee, reasonable prices for espresso beverages, and good baked goods (courtesy of the bakery). The plain croissants are solid. The chocolate croissants are a bit disappointing for the price.

The fun thing about this restaurant is that the seating is horribly cramped, they serve food on chipped dishes and if you order a large coffee/beverage they bring it to you in a soup bowl that doesn’t have a handle. It’s ridiculous but somehow charming.

There are always people in there eating alone and although I usually just get takeout, I’ve dined solo there a couple times. I’ve never been disappointed with my decision to do that! The first time I ate there, I sat next to a table where two black women were debating something. Well … more accurately, one woman was going on a verbally assaultive diatribe, throwing an impressive vocabulary and pre-cise enun-cia-tion into her rant while the other woman, visibly cowed, sipped coffee and mmhmm’d here and there. I went there today and had a brief conversation with my neighbour at the next table, who I noticed was a man who had turned into a well dressed woman. Her handbag was open and I could see the 7 day pillbox inside, which I assumed contained pills used to suppress her manly hormones.

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California Grannies

Filed under: San Francisco — attaikede @ 11:16 am

There are 4 types of grannies I want to talk about in this post: Californian, Chinese loved, Chinese possibly not loved and Indian.

Let’s get started.

1. California Grannies

Ok, all the grannies I’m talking about are california grannies in the sense they live here and I saw them here, but these grannies are uniquely californian – they embrace that typical esthetic of blonde, trendy and makeup-friendly. .. Which is fine, except they’re like 90 years old!

It’s really bizarre! How is it even possible to have glossy hair when you’re so old!? Are there stores where old ladies can buy wigs? Do they buy the wigs off ebay? So many questions … and the hair is just the beginning!

Makeup? Bright red or pink lipstick, rainbow shades of eye shadow and penciled in eyebrows are all the rage. Again, it’s a little bizarre, but at the same time, i find it refreshing that they don’t let their wrinkly faces and droopy features put a damper on their cosmetic urges.

When it comes to style, these ladies are fashion forward. Polka dots, jaunty sweater sets, cute shoes. It’s a sight to behold. One regular, who I see sometimes at the same corner store I go to, even has a crisp jacket she wears over her shoulders! She doesn’t walk. She struts.

2. Beloved Chinese grannies

I have to catch my bus to work before 9 am in order to assure a seat; otherwise by the time it gets to my stop it’s already full of Chinese grandmas and grandpas on their way from the west end of the city, where the bus route starts, to Chinatown, which is downtown.

Some of these grannies are the usual beloved Chinese grannies. They all have curly hair, wear cute slightly Asian themed outfits, and sensible black walking shoes. They hang out at the front of the bus with the Chinese grandpas. They laugh, they chat, they have a good time. I’m not sure they speak english, but the probably understand some words because I’ve had several encounters with these grannies, most of which involved them helping me out. I’m still an awkward and uncoordinated bus rider whereas these grannies are pros. I’m usually ok on weekdays when it’s just me and one small bag, but when I take that route on weekends to buy groceries or something (chinatown has the cheapest produce. Gotta use it within a few days tho), my ride back can become a bit stressful. In these cases, sometimes the grandmas on board decide I need help/advice so they gently point and poke at me and my bags until I’ve arranged them to their satisfaction. One time, a grandma even took my wrist and moved my hand away from where I’d been resting it, on a trial smart card device, to the actual pole, where I should have been resting it.

I love it when I have interactions with those grandmas. It just goes to show that language isn’t always much of a barrier. I mean, I don’t look chinese, I don’t speak chinese, and they don’t speak english, but they’re able to help me, and i’m able to accept their help and thank them for it which results in this lovely interaction that leaves all of us smiling.

3. Tragic Chinese Grandmas

I don’t know what the deal is with these grandmas. They don’t have curly hair and they don’t have cute outfits. They usually have short haircuts and ill-fitting western clothes.

They still take the same bus route as me in the morning, but whereas the beloved grannies sit at the front, these grannies sit at the back with the regular working people. They don’t have other grannies around to chat with and they don’t even have proper snacks to eat! What kind of person would let their grandma carry around a tub of cashew bits and eat that for breakfast !? Come on! If you’re going to give her nuts, at least give her WHOLE nuts! Terrible.

Just from looking at these tragic grannies I get the impression they probably have to do all the cooking and cleaning at home and that’s why they can’t waste their time on cute outfits and hairdos like the other grannies can.

4. Indian grannies

Ok, that last bit about the tragic grannies was a bit depressing so I hope this last category will cheer you up.

There are lots of Indian grannies around here! That probably makes sense given the fairly large Indian population. It’s not uncommon to walk around town and see Indian grannies out and about with their families.

All Indian grannies look the same. They are usually a little bit chubby, have their hair up in a bun, and wear pastel or muted cotton saris. What I like about these grannies is that if we end up in eye contact, and I smile, they’ll smile back. I don’t think they’d initiate the smile (I don’t think smiling at strangers is advisable in indian culture. There are too many weird people on the streets and if you just walk around smiling then something bad might happen), but they do reciprocate. That is a huge improvement over what happens with Indian people who aren’t grandmas. Middle aged or even younger people don’t smile back.

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Interestingly, I haven’t seen many hispanic grandmas around. Not even in the mission district, which is a heavily hispanic neighbourhood.

July 17, 2008

Meds

Filed under: San Francisco — attaikede @ 4:52 pm

I caught the flu last week and although I survived most of the symptoms with Tylenol, a stubborn cough and a couple other symptoms have stuck and gotten worse over the past couple days. After my third sleepless night, I woke up this morning and resolved to go to the doctor with one goal in mind: Get codeine. Normal cough medicines had proved useless and after googling my symptoms, it looked like codeine would be an effective way to treat the cough and as a bonus was a pain killer as well.

This was my first time going to a doctor in the US and so I think that’s probably why I put it off so long. Honestly, I should have gone last week cuz I was pretty sick, but I was nervous about the process, the paperwork, and unsure of how much I’d have to shell out. Sure, my plan sounded good in the booklet I read when I signed up for it but maybe there were extra fees and taxes they’d add on at the last minute! Yup. I was pretty worried!

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If you’re curious about how health insurance works here then here’s a basic explanation.

(more…)

July 16, 2008

Just shy?

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 10:44 pm

Big companies like Google, Yahoo, etc. offer shuttle bus services from various points in San Francisco out to the corporate campuses in the valley to ease employee commutes. These shuttle buses are just regular coach buses that are presumably outfitted with wifi or something so that the nerds on board have something to occupy themselves with.

Taking a bus like that is definitely more convenient than the public transit alternative or driving, especially for people who live at the north or west ends of the city. The highway and rail transit services only really serve the central and southern part of the city so us suckers living in the other areas have to first fight through city traffic (or take the bus) to get to the highway/rail transit and then join the rest of the commuters to get to our destination.

Luckily I work in downtown San Francisco and so am spared any sort of commute. hehe!

Anyway, my morning route takes me past a Google shuttle bus pickup spot.

First of all, how do I know it’s a Google pickup spot? Well, I’ve been taking the same bus for 3 months now, and there are people lined up at that corner pretty much every morning, and i’ve seen them enough times to have spotted significant amounts of Google paraphernelia and an absence of other tech brands that I can conclude it’s a Google stop. (ah … the old confusion between spot and stop strikes again.)

Secondly, why am I spending all this energy describing this stop/spot? Umm, I don’t know. That was totally tangential. What I was really trying to talk about is the people I see lining up at the Google spot. Stop.

The bus crowd is quite lively. People who get on the bus in pairs or groups obviously chat with each other but everybody else is quiet and occupied. Everybody is busy doing something — reading a book, fiddling with ipods, playing with their blackberries, flicking through content on their iphones, whatever.

The bus stops across the street from the Google pickup spot, and I usually have a seat on the side of the bus facing the Google lineup (it’s the sunny side), and so I usually get a nice little chance to observe the lineup.

The interesting thing about that lineup is that those people are totally dead to the world! They just stand next to each other, staring straight ahead or at their feet. There are usually 3 to 6 people waiting there when my bus goes by and it’s rare to even see somebody fiddling with a gadget. I’ve never seen these people talk to each other or have any sort of animation. Granted, i’m only seeing them for like 30 seconds, but still! I’ve been getting that 30 second glimpse for the last 3 months and i’ve NEVER seen a conversation! I’ve also yet to see somebody reading a book!

I dunno. The impetus to blog about this came today when I saw the lineup again in the morning, this time with about 6 people and I noticed that one curly haired girl in the middle of the lineup was madly scrolling through something on her blackberry. i could clearly make out that distinctive thumb flick from across the street! She was definitely excited about something! Suddenly I though to myself “ah .. she must be in marketing”, and then suddenly I realized wow .. that was atypical.

July 14, 2008

Talking while Driving: The Lesser of Two Evils

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 8:15 pm

July 1st 2008 was the day when a new state wide law came into effect in California. Talking on cell phones while driving is no longer allowed unless the driver has one of those hands free headsets.

This is a stupid law! Those hands free devices have been around for a while. People who don’t alread use them have made that choice for a reason. The government is betting that this law will be enough of an incentive (threat) to push the stragglers over the decision threshold and pony up for a dorky bluetooth headset, thereby making our roads safer (no more 1 handed driving/dialing). In reality though, this law presents the mobile gabber with a choice: (1) Get a headset (2) Talk without talking – i.e. text message!

Responsible people, fat fingered people, dim sighted people, people who need both hands to text, people who don’t know how to text and people who think it’s cool to use bluetooth will most likely opt for choice 1. That’s my speculation, anyway.

Irresponsible people, obsessive texters, compulsive email checkers, and people who think headsets are only appropriate for commission crazed sales people will embrace choice 2.

Texting while driving is definitely more distracting than holding a handset while driving. I mean, sure, dialing while driving can be a little tricky but after those 10 digits are punched you can basically zone out and yack to your heart’s delight. Rare is the conversation so compelling that it requires actual brain cells to compose your next sentence. What do we usually talk about? Boring stuff! Picking up groceries, running late, gossiping about people we know. But texting? repeatedly pressing those tiny buttons (or if you’re lucky and have a full keyboard, trying to hit the right tinier buttons), squinting at the tiny font trying to read the last message, trying to think of something witty for your response. Even the most banal conversation suddenly requires a bit of coordination and concentration when it’s texted instead of verbalized.

Of course, if the number of people who make Choice 1, and buy headsets, vastly outweighs the number who take the dangerous route and make Choice 2, the overall accident rate might decrease. But I dunno .. this is California. Land of the beautiful, image conscious, rich and tech obsessed. I think lots of people are going to make Choice 2. And I think lots of people are going to die!

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* Why the rant? A soccer teammate just drove me home from practice. she kept trying to log into her blackberry while we were driving and i was like .. umm… maaaybe just wait for the red light. I was freaking out a bit cuz i was giving her directions and there was a lot of lane changing going on but we were both alert so i figured it was ok. FInally she gave up and just called the dude she was trying to talk to. I said I’d be on cop patrol (cuz i bet the cops are going to go hardcore with the fines for the first few months). I’m no better though. I didn’t even buy a headset. Shh…

July 11, 2008

Human Evolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 7:06 pm

The humans in the movie Wall-E are fat creatures who sit in chairs all day and order their robots to do all their work for them. They have to live in space ships circling the planet Earth because pollution has rendered the planet uninhabitable.

I was thinking .. hmm .. will we evolve into fat blobs engrossed in chitchat?

I hope not. That seems a little depressing.

Here’s my proposal: I think we’ll evolve to be heads. We wont need our bodies anymore because we’ll have a knowledge based telepathic culture. If we have to move from place to place, we’ll just roll our heads around, using our ears like paddles. This could really work! Think about fish .. they don’t have arms! We’ll use our ears like they use their fins. In fact, a ball object is very efficient. It’s such a zen shape.

In this new era, beauty will be determined by the roundness of one’s head. The law of survival of the fittest will ensure that the weirdo square shaped people won’t survive. They won’t be able to roll around!

The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is how reproduction would work. Hmm. Obviously I still have some thinking to do.

July 10, 2008

Watch your fingers at the meat market

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:51 am

This poor woman had hers bitten off!

July 9, 2008

Facebook “friends”

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:49 am

I unfriended a whole whack of people from facebook today. Who were these people? Highschool classmates who copied answers from me. Coworkers who I never talk to anymore. Etc. It’s fun to get reconnected with these people in the beginning – look at their photos, see what other mutual friends we have etc. But after the spying is over and done with, is there really a benefit to being connected with people like that?

What about people who are one step in — university classmates with whom I am completely out of touch with now. We weren’t friends when we were in school and didn’t become friends after we left. For now i’ve kept these people on my list mainly because if I desperately had to network with anybody, they’re the people I’d start with outside my actual friends. I mean, we did spend 5 important years together. That’s gotta count for something. But maybe I should be unfriending those people as well. Would I realistically reach out these non-friend classmates? More likely I’d reach out to my friend and ask my friend to reach out to the person I was trying to get at.

People talk about how networking is really important, but I wonder how useful holding on to these acquaintances is relative to just relying on your normal network of actual friends.

Charming people, or smooth talkers, or however you want to describe them are special because they can pretty much approach anybody and get what they want. I can see how it makes sense for such people to have Facebook friend lists of thousands of people. The rest of us aren’t so gifted. We (a) probably wouldn’t approach acquaintances and (b) if we did it would probably be awkward.

I’m starting to feel like after the initial spying/catchup phase is over having such people on facebook is just stressful. They can spy on my photos whenever they want, read what wall posts other people are leaving me whenever they want, etc. I dont want these people keeping tabs on my life!

If I use the security features then they know that I’ve limited their access and so that seems kind of weird too. Why friend somebody and then not let them contact me? Cutting them off seems like the best thing to do. That’s why i unfriended so many people today.
What about you guys? Some of you have reasonably sized friends lists (I think 100 and up starts getting kind of big). Do you really keep in touch with those people? do you restrict their access? Have you ever gone through and cleaned your list?

Wealth

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 2:25 am

I read this article a couple days ago. Why did it bother me?

It is an inspiring story. This kid saw poverty, had a realization that she had a lot more than other people did and her family supported her and decided to do something about it in a major way.

That being said, there’s something a little unsettling about this story. The girl saw a homeless guy sitting next to a mercedes and figured “if the mercedes owner didn’t have such a nice car, the homeless guy could have had dinner.” That viewpoint is wrong! Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! The fact that this observation and this idea underpinned the family’s decision to support charity makes me feel rather uncomfortable, and the fact that CNN printed this story and thereby gave credence to this ridiculous viewpoint makes me feel even more uncomfortable.

This family are obviously advocates of wealth redistribution. The family sold their house and donated half the proceeds to charity means that they’re out x and the charity is up x. Their wealth has been redistributed to other people.

I find the idea of wealth redistribution to be a little nuts.

Some degree of wealth distribution is obviously beneficial to society. If we agree that taking care of basic necessities is an important service the government should provide then it’s clear that some degree of wealth redistribution is required to make it happen. For example, the government offers tax supported services such as healthcare and universal education. Many of the people who take advantage of such services could not have been able to afford to pay for them had they not been offered for free by the government. Not everybody can afford private school! I’d say that’s a positive example of wealth redistribution in action.

The problem is, it doesn’t make sense beyond a certain point because wealth is not a fixed asset. There isn’t a fixed amount of money that can be distributed over the population. (Even if wealth WAS a fixed asset, what is it that these wealth redistribution advocates want? Is the ideal utopia a world where everybody wears grey jumpsuits and drives Fords and nobody has anything better or worse than anybody else? Nobody has a mercedes but nobody is homeless either? If that’s where we’re headed then please, somebody sedate me now.) In other words, if the mercedes owner didn’t have a nice car, but instead had a crappy car, then it’s possible that the delta in wealth it took to go from a crappy car to a mercedes would never have been generated. That mercedes owner probably worked hard on purpose to get the mercedes. In doing so he created wealth that would not have been created otherwise.

Understanding why poor are poor and rich are rich is much more complicated than the simplistic idea that the rich people took all the money leaving none for the poor. While I definitely admire the resolve of the family described in the article, I think that presenting and commending their total cluelessness of basic economics is a disservice to the news reading population.

I can’t believe I found this article in CNN, of all places… what is the world coming to?

July 6, 2008

Marathi Overload

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 8:24 pm

I spent my 4th of July long weekend at the Maiytra convention – it’s a Marathi youth convention.

This convention is held every other year to help youth meet youth. It’s held in North America so it’s usually just Canadians and Americans who go but a few British people came all the way out here for it this year as well.

I went this year because it was held in San Francisco, thus lowering my barrier to entry (no hotel or flight costs) and my marathi family friend (our dads have been buddies for the last 40 years or something) didn’t have any family going.  I was curious about it, and since it worked out with Rose I figured it would be fun.

I thought it might be fun to share some details of this event with you. I’ve never met so many Marathi youth in one place and observing the various personalities was pretty interesting!

People Summary:

Party Animals – there was a huge contingent of party animals there. These people, both guys and girls, just get wasted every night and are the prime culprits of excessive mingling. They tend to be a younger crowd.

Marriage Ready Individuals (MRIs)- There’s also a reasonably sized contingent of people who are definitely looking to get married. Some of them will be coy about it, but others will be up front about it after you get to know them. It makes sense .. I mean Marathi people are so spread out that if you really wanted somebody from the same culture then an event like this is a great way to check out the scene. Unfortunately, I don’t think this particular event is organized enough to be useful in this sense … I think that online dating would be a much more effective and less stressful way of going about that activity. There are so many party animals at this convention that I think it really reduces the chances of MRIs meeting other MRIs. Chances are, MRIs will just keep meeting party animals!

Middle Zoners – This is a very diverse group. It includes people who are not MRIs but are too traditional or too shy to be party animals, shy people, individuals like me who only came because the barrier to entry was low, and people who are probably MRIs but not willing to admit it.

Gender based Behaviour summary:

The girls were cold! Rose is better connected in the community than I am and she bumped into various female acquaintances during the conference. I ran into a few women I knew as well. None of these females were very friendly though! I didn’t make a single female friend except for a spoiled girl from Dubai. I wouldn’t really even call her a friend but I did chat with her multiple times throughout the conference. That’s more than I can say for any other females. Rose says this makes sense. Girls are there to meet guys. They’re not interested in girls.

Conference Summary:

The conference was lame and poorly organized. Seems like a lot of Indian community events have a problem with getting things started on time. This problem is not limited to the Marathi community – I’ve heard other Indian people make jokes about it as well. The joke is, events start on “indian standard time”. IST is basically… up to 1 hour later than scheduled. In my experience, this lateness is usually caused by organizing committee ineptitude, excessive mingling and habit (oh it always starts late, so i’ll show up late). It’s extremely frustrating for the minority of us who are are on time, or who are genuinely interested in content (cuz the minglers keep mingling even AFTER the sessions have started) or who are just shy and get bored of mingling after a while and who look to the seminars as a respite from the mingling overload going on. I skipped most of the events after I realized that nothing started on time and you just end up trapped in a room with excessive minglers for half an hour until the darn thing starts.

The other problem with this event is that it’s total overload for people who are introverts or even close to that range of the spectrum. I know I can be gregarious and fun sometimes, but I’m not like that ALL the time. I think there are lots of people who fall into that category — we need quiet. This event tends to attract a lot of very, very outgoing people. They don’t need quiet time, and if they do, they need it far less frequently than the rest of us. This results in a bias against the shy/quiet types. For example, I skipped a few events and the next day some of the acquaintances I’d shaken hands with the previous day asked me where I had been! I mean geez.. I just met you. Why are you keeping tabs on me? It’s creepy! The topic also comes up at dinner, when people talk about other people and remark on who is not at the table, and basically it’s just a negative connotation for those who skip, like “Oh, Sunil isn’t here .. yeah, he’s probably just shy .. yeah he didn’t talk to me unless I talked to him”, etc. This annoyed me too! Who somebody is shy, and you want them around, you have to invite them! Just do it and sort it out! Don’t ignore them and then talk about them when they aren’t there with that negative connotation when you and your friends say they’re shy.

The final problem is that 90% of the interactions are first time introductions. Hi, i’m from X. I do Y. My name is Z. Oh, what part of the city, oh i’ve visited your city. oh i just met ABC from your city, oh I know DEF from your city. Endless repeat for 3 days! Those gregarious party animal types are able to handle this .. they’re probably used to it. But I, for example, get frustrated by it. There’s no time for any actual conversation, or chance to get to know people, cuz everybody just wants to meet people and the event is so short nobody can really invest time in getting to know anybody else. Indian names don’t help either. Sunil, Kunal, Binal, Priya, Priyanka, Supriya, Deepashree, Ganashree, Bhanyashree, etc. They all sound the same! The surnames are useless too. There are huge clans of Joshis, Kulkarnis, and names like that and plus there are lots of various names ending in -kar. akar, bkar, ckar, dkar, ekar. It’s a blur of kars! I got into several situations where somebody I had previously met introduced himself again and I couldn’t remember whether I’d met this person before and whether I’d concluded they were creepy or not. Sigh.

In conclusion, I guess I’m glad I went because I got to observe so many interesting things and meet a few nice people. I don’t think I’d go again though, because I don’t think I’d be willing to spend airfare and hotel expense AND pay the conference registration for an event like this. It’s just not worth it for non party animals.

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