Atta Ikede

August 31, 2008

Autobahn

Filed under: San Francisco, Uncategorized — attaikede @ 8:21 am

There are highways in Germany called autobahns that don’t have speed limits. In fact all they have is a minimum required speed. I think everybody who owns a BMW dreams of driving on these highways. Heck, sometimes even I dream of driving on those highways! hehe.

In my experience, highway driving speeds in and around San Francisco are quite slow. Those of us who cut our teeth on the 401 know that you can go up to 130 km/h without being the fastest car on the road and it’s normal to change lanes at that speed. In fact at 130 km/h you’ll be forced into the middle lane like a turtle so that speeders can zoom past you in the left lane at 140, 150 and up. That’s what happens on a Sunday morning when volume is reasonable.

San Francisco is very different: There are several highways in the area and they’re all slow. if you drive at 80 mph ( =130 km/h), you WILL be the fastest car on the road. In fact, you can’t drive faster than 70 mph unless you have a clear view of the road ahead and know there isn’t a cop there. The cop watch gets stressful after a while so the best strategy is just tough it out at 65 mph. It’s slow, but at least it’s safer and you’re um .. saving gas.

There is one exception, however, and that is what I refer to as San Francisco’s autobahn. What is this mythical place? It’s the Bay Bridge!

Bay Bridge from Coit Tower

The bridge is a double decker highway — outbound traffic is on the lower rung and inbound traffic is on the upper rung. It’s something like 5 or 6 lanes each way.
I think maybe it’s the sudden expansion from 3 lanes to 6 that gets drivers excited, cuz speeds noticeably pick up under there. It’s my favourite place to drive!

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August 22, 2008

San Jose Public Transit – VTA

Filed under: San Francisco, Uncategorized — attaikede @ 6:22 pm

The best thing about San Jose is the public transit. They’ve implemented some very thoughtful touches! The system is called the “VTA”.

People love to hate public transit and it’s no different for VTA – Everybody told me that it sucks and that it’s dangerous. I was only in town for a few days, didn’t ride the transit at odd hours and didn’t travel extensively on the network so it’s possible that the system does suck and is dangerous at times; however I can say with certainty that it’s pleasant to ride sometimes and definitely connects the most important places in San Jose.

(Side Note: The most important places in SJ are, in my opinion: (1) downtown .. this is where the convention center and hotel cluster is at (2) Santana Row .. this is where the nice restaurants are (3) Mall 1 .. a high end mall near Santana Row and (4) Mall 2 .. a lower end mall. Mall 2 has a Target. Mall 1 has a Banana Republic.)

I didn’t want to bore you with all my obscure observations on how great the VTA is, so here are my top 2 favourite things about it:

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August 21, 2008

SES San Jose 2008

Filed under: San Francisco — attaikede @ 6:24 pm

Up till recently I had my display pic on my phone set to a giant mountain of candy I photographed one day. It just looked so delicious I had to see it every day.

I changed that yesterday. Now, I have two middle aged slightly chubby men as my display pic. Don’t worry, they’re blurred out in the foreground. The important part of the picture is the huge PPT slide behind them that reads: “The Role of Search? To reduce all knowledge to information and information to superficial scraps of data.”

Interesting quote, eh?

I was in San Jose for the past week at a conference called Search Engine Strategies (SES). It’s a pretty interesting conference .. it’s mainly for people who are in the Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) industries. I went because I now work on an online ad product and so I was interested in the SEM angle here in terms of how people tweak ad content on the major online ad networks and I wanted to learn more about SEO.

SEO – how to tweak your website so that it comes up higher in search results

SEM – strategies for buying advertising on search engines and their networks so that you can get people clicking on your ads.

There is a huge industry around the major search engines that works on SEO and SEM. The industry is very similar to a lot sales / low level “consulting” industries – There are a few people who are really good at it, have talent and probably make good money, but the barrier to enter this profession is pretty low and so pretty much anybody with some vaguely business/tech background can easily set themselves up and if they have sales savvy can probably land some clients and get a business going.

Some points about this conference:

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August 14, 2008

Sesame Mystery

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 6:53 pm

Ok Asian friends! Please educate me.

How come the sesame seeds on a bun are white but the sesame seeds in the peanut and sesame mochi are black?

I always thought the sesame in the mochi is just ground up sesame seeds, but it seems a little odd that seeds go from white to black after they are crushed.

What’s the deal here?

No, I haven’t Googled this issue yet. If your answers are useless or provided in an untimely fashion then I will do so.

August 10, 2008

Excessively cute hygeine tools

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 9:39 pm

Back when I was in Japan in March, I bought a small cute wooden spoon at a stall in the touristy part of Kyoto. It’s a really cute spoon … it has a green frog-type creature dangling from one end of it and two little bells too. It jingles when you move it around.

The spoon part of it is extremely small, but I figured maybe it’s used for spooning caviar or something onto one’s dish, so I didn’t think it was too unusual. My plan was just to keep the spoon in my spoon drawer and hear the merry jingle every time I open the drawer.

Well guess what! i recently figured out that this spoon is meant for ear cleaning !!! That’s why it’s so small! In fact, after looking at it more closely I realized that the spoon part of it isn’t a spoon at all, but instead is just angled inwards!

Of course, I couldn’t resist sticking the thing in my ear once I realized that’s where it was meant to go. I stood in front of the mirror and made a small experimental poke. Unfortunately, I was using my left hand which has no sense of control and I think I accidentally stabbed my ear drum or something. It was a bit uncomfortable. I tried again with my right hand and my right ear, but this time I was so careful that the poke only served to make my ear itchy and when i put the spoon down I realized that my back, shoulders and entire face had been rather tense!

Summary: Don’t buy suspiciously small spoons in Japan, even if they look irresistably cute. I don’t know why Japanese people would want to poke a hard wooden spoon into their ear, (and apparently this practice has spread to other parts of asia) or why they would add bells to such a spoon, but .. well, it’s Japan.

I’m going to stick to my Q-Tips. Nice and soft!

Miscellaneous Updates

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 11:13 am

1. I bought an espresso machine on amazon.com a couple weeks ago. It arrived last week and I’ve been experimenting with it ever since. The verdict? I LOVE IT!

2. They have this concept in the states of gender-specific department store locations.  Have you ever seen a women’s only Bay store? No. Well here in San Francisco, there’s an enormous 7-storey Macy’s downtown and as I wandered around in there one day a couple weeks ago, I felt like there was something missing. Actually, there were two things missing: (1) customers (2) a men’s department. Macy’s has a separate location for the men’s department,called “the men’s store” a block away from the 7-storey store! I think there are a couple other department store chains that have gender specific stores downtown as well.

3. My plant is still alive! i’ve been taking care of it very carefully. I always remember to open the blinds before I leave for work so that it can get sunlight, and I put a gigantic squirt bottle I got for free from Walgreens next to it so that I can water it easily when the dish gets dry. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to be a flowering plant but I can’t see a single flower bud! There were a couple on it at one point early on, but I wasn’t taking care of the plant very well at that time and so they dried up and fell out without blooming.

4. Next time you go to the supermarket, keep an eye out for berries. You’ll see that there’s a brand called “Driscoll’s“. It’s from California. I remember that in Toronto, I could regularly buy those berries in a 2/$5 deal. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries. mmm .. so good! Sometimes even the organic berries were included in the 2/$5 deal! Here in San Fran, those same berries are like $4! Honestly. I haven’t eaten a raspberry since I left Canada. They’re priced out of my reach here.

5. Being surrounded by “green” options and living in an expensive environment really does affect a person’s buying habits.  For example, a brand of dairy products that’s sold around here has a tag line that says “made with milk from rBST free cows”. The label goes on to say that the FDA has verified there is nothing wrong with drinking milk from rBST free cows. What the heck is rbst and why are cows eating it?? Google research indicates that rbst is bovine growth hormone. After reading up about it, I am relieved that it’s not in my cottage cheese and yogurt. I’ve had similar brushups with non animal tested soaps and organic foods. When large and small stores have sections dedicated to eco friendly / non animal tested / green things, it’s hard not to notice, and when everything is so expensive that the price gaps between the green and non-green products is small, it becomes very easy to go green with the daily small choices.

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