Friday, August 16, 2013

Interlude - Silicon Valley through my brown eyes

Interlude - Silicon Valley through my brown eyes

In my last post, I promised a Guest Blogger and here he is. It is my husband David, proud Google employee.  Hope you enjoy his Interlude. Do not forget to leave your comments, suggestions or questions when you visit. Thank you.

As a guest and first time blogger I decided to talk about my least favorite subject. Me. Ok, not about me per se, but how a small town french Canadian bumpkin, as Lorraine likes to refer to me, came to work for the best company in Silicon Valley.

My IT trip began in 1978, when I was 8 and my father bought his first computer, a Tandy TRS 80, 4k. Although quite limited, I still wonder to this day how someone was able to write a Chess program in 4k that would beat the 8 year old me every time. (Turns out I stink at chess and any program can beat the 43 year old me).

The passion really started 5 years later when we upgraded to a Commodore 64. The deal was sealed. I then became addicted to those wonderful Compute! And Compute!'s gazette magazines, which is where I first read about a mythical place called Silicon Valley. It's also where I learned English. That and by watching the A-team, but I digress.  Silicon Valley?! in a place called California, half a world away and probably in another, parallel universe. Some would argue that the Valley actually is a parallel universe.

Growing up in rural Quebec, even in the 70's, you could feel the remnant of the Catholic Church oppressiveness, where everybody is raised to believe they are born for small bread (a bad translation on 'né pour un petit pain', which means no great expectations in your future). This would be the total opposite of the American Dream, where you are told that working hard can give you 'the life'. When you are told either too many times you may start to believe it.

The next 10 years were easy, high school, college, university for a BSC, then to push the real world away for a few more years, a Master. In the end, in 1994, I temporarily gave up on my Master to go see the real world, finishing it in my spare time, between two games of Sherlock.

The first job was fun, I got to learn GIS (geographical information systems) which I ended doing for the next 17 years both in Montreal and in Vancouver (job tip: don't paint yourself in a corner by doing the same thing for too long). Along the way I got to solve some amazing problems, like gps-less submarine navigation. But when you grow up, you end up forgetting about your childhood dreams and Silicon Valley went the way of Teddy bear, Miami Vice and Disco. We even came to San Francisco a few times and I never realized how close I was to this place. Just a few more miles south...

Then 6 years ago, the company I worked for at the time, got some sub-contracting from the big G. in Mountain View. I got to travel to the Campus and see a bit of San Jose and all in-between. Every second building posted the name of an IT giant. The other buildings were of giants to be (or not be). That was real?! Those companies did exist somewhere, they were not just logos and names on software and hardware boxes. There were all in that place, that Silicon Valley?!

I dedicated the next few years to build a good resume, with less GIS, and applied to many Silicon Valley's company, even though my heart was beating for G. It's even a verb now?! In the end between Amazon and G, the choice was easy.

So remember your forgotten dreams and investigate those mythical places. Sometimes they exists and dreams do come true.

Now instead of a recipe, let me tell you G. biggest secrets. Here we go... Wait, I am being called to the Teleporter's room; the Unicorn has escaped again...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Take 27 - Rocky Horror Show - The Musical in San Jose

Take 27 - Rocky Horror Show - The Musical in San Jose

Last Friday we attended a showing of The Rocky Horror Show (The Musical) at City Lights Theater in downtown San Jose. I have written about this venue before and will surely write about it again in the future because it an ideal place to see a play or a musical. The space is small, intimate, cozy and comfy. The acoustic is amazingly good for such a small space and yet despite its size you do not feel cramped or suffocated. Its half moon and auditorium shape is wonderful. Ok, so enough on the space let's talk about the show.

In Rocky Horror Show speak, we were virgins. Neither of us had ever seen the movie and its many cult responses or reactions to the dialogue and what is going on on stage. To say this Musical is the utmost in ridicule would an understatement, naturally, but the actors are so good and the voices so great, you tend to forget the silly dialogue. I once heard someone say it is much harder to play stupid than serious so it has to be much harder for good singers/actors/performers to sing in an off key way, at times, and act the fool.

For those who have never seen nor heard of Rocky Horror Show, here is a quick recap of the story and if you want the whole history behind this phenomenon, you will have to do your own research. The story begins on a country road where a couple becomes stranded in their car during a rain storm and decide to go ask for help at a castle nearby. The couple is met by a wacky group of individuals living at the castle who will lead them into an even wackier adventure, changing their lives forever.

Of course, the best known song is the Time Warp tune which almost everyone knew, including yours truly and her hubby. We just did not know the moves that went with it. Now, imagine our surprise, when at the end of the show, actors come out into the audience and take you by the hand to bring you on stage, the whole audience that is, to reprise the Time Warp song, this time with moves and all. I was standing next to Dr. Scott (the character) and when the music started again and they said you take two step to the left, I took two steps to the right and ended up bumping into Dr. Scott. How did I forget where was my left was? David and I both looked like deer in a headlight. Kind of a stage fright ? I am sure, looking back, we were not alone up there on that stage.

 I would also like to mention how good the live band was and how I enjoyed the voices of the character called Riff Raff played by Matty Gregg and Rocky, played by Michael Welland. Both quite accomplished singers in their own right.

So, in closing, despite or because all of the above, we had a great time and I urge you, if you have not seen this show, and there are still dates left in San Jose or it comes to your town one day, go see it and leave your attitude and stiffness at home.

On a different matter, my next post will be by a guest blogger. I will reveal his or her identity then, when I turn over the controls to that person.

In the meantime, I invite your comments, questions or suggestions about this post or any other past posts.

Thanks for reading !

Friday, August 2, 2013

Take 25 - The Hotel - Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas

Take 25 - The Hotel - Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas

There is a gazillion and one hotels in the world, some of them 'run of the mill" and some of them that really stand out and cause you to talk about them for a long time, even  after you have checked out and returned home.

I mentioned in my previous post that I would tell you about the hotel we stayed at in Cabo San Lucas. Before I say anything about it, please understand that I was not paid nor offered any incentives to say what I am about to say about this hotel. I am simply sharing because my husband and I were  very impressed by the location, the service, the decor, the food, etc.

The first thing I must say is that the Riu Palace in Cabo San Lucas is part of a chain of hotels that originated in Spain in the 1950s and still, to this day, is a family owned company, with its headquarters in Majorca.  Of all the places where they have resorts,  here are a few locations I remember reading about : Varadero, Cuba, 5 locations + in Dominican Republic, Palm Beach, Florida, ........ and so many more.

At the Riu Palace, Cabo San Lucas, rooms are large, comfortable and well appointed with a sunken mini living room and a large balcony. The bathrooms are large with a double sink vanity. The water is plentiful, very hot and with great pressure. The floors are tiled and the air conditioning is very efficient. There is a small fridge filled with drinks (alcoholic and non) and something I had never seen before in a hotel, a contraption with  four bottles of hard liquor installed upside down above the mini-fridge (for those who wish to enjoy them) where you simply press your glass upward and your liquid of choice is dispensed (we tried the gadget for fun).

There are several beautiful swimming pools, large and small, all with plenty of seating possibilities and at certain times of day, activities for everyone. There is a grill and chef poolside at lunchtime for those who wish to tan and eat uninterrupted. 

There are several restaurants on the premises, some requiring reservations and some that don't. The food is mostly outstanding and more than plentiful. Several bars are also there, each with a different look and every one of them with excellent service. There is even a stage at one of them and at night there are shows with a different theme each evening.

One restaurant charmed us beyond all others; so much so that we frequented it three times during our 5-day stay. I am talking about the Japanese one. Having lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, David and I have a certain knowledge of Japanese food. The food at the Misaki was truly outstanding. I will include photos of several dishes.  The desserts were out of this world. The decor of the restaurant was truly authentic including a pond with a gurgling fountain. Even some shamisen music was softly piped in through the hidden speakers. The only thing missing ? A few koi to complete the Japanese illusion. You could have easily sworn you were in Japan. (Photos to come in a couple of days)

Another wonderful place to eat breakfast and dinner was ............ This was a huge room decorated in the style of an elegant French dining room with chandeliers, high ceilings, tall windows dressed with beautiful plein jour curtains and lovely drapes. The food there was also delicious and the choices were endless. The desserts were also quite impressive including a chocolate fountain, a huge selection of ice cream and all of the ingredients to make a fine sundae creation, if that is your thing. There were also lots of petits fours to make your mouth drool as well as flan, panna cotta and chocolate truffles.

There are too many amenities at that resort to list them all here and I apologize for the one I may have omitted, but suffice it to say that it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy life with an incredible view of the Sea of Cortes to boot.  However,  one thing I must tell you about is the quality of the service. Anytime you ask a staff member a question, you are given a quick, polite and efficient response. Your requests for a product or service are met quickly and efficiently and personnel will go beyond the call to satisfy you. We even experienced a totally awesome event. We had gone to one of the bars to get a pre-dinner drink. When our waiter approached us to take our order, I asked if he had something bubbly and explained we were celebrating some news we had just received via email. He seemed genuinely delighted for us and told us he had champagne if we wanted it. We immediately agreed to one glass each. He then asked us if we would like to have a bottle sent to our room ? We were stunned by his offer and immediately agreed. Then, when we offered him a tip, he politely declined and said it was a pleasure for him to do his job and make us happy. How cool is that ? Ok, so the champagne turned out to be Portuguese bubbly wine but it was a very good bubbly. Also, everything is included at that resort, even a bottle sent to your room, but the mere fact that he suggested having a bottle sent to our room was of the utmost kindness to us.

This resort does not quality as cheap tourism and is worth every dollar you will spend there. Personally, we  can only say good things about this place and we will most certainly try and experience another of their resorts in another part of the world, some day soon.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I invite you to post comments, suggestions and questions.

Take 26 - A quick shout-out to Alaska Airlines

Take 26 - A quick shout-out to Alaska Airlines

Usually, we tend to want to talk about bad experiences we encounter during air travel. Bad service, rude employees, lousy airline food, dirty washrooms, etc. In this post, I will make a point of telling you about the positive side of an airline.

On our trip  from California to Cabo San Lucas and back, we flew with Alaska Airlines. Full disclosure, Alaska is not always the first airline that comes to  my mind when thinking of traveling somewhere along the coast but I promise you, this experience will change my way of doing things in the future.

We had such great service and pleasant flight going and returning that I just had to say BRAVO. Alaska has a policy that if their First Class is not full, they offer the available seats at $50 extra, each way. Way to go Alaska ! The food was amazing each way, including on the way back a Moroccan Chicken I would be proud to serve to any guest who came to my house.

One special note to an outstanding flight attendant. Her name is Michele Balthazar and she made our flight back the best I have ever experienced. Thank you Michele ! Thanks also to Alaska for having the foresight of hiring great employees.