Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Free Food in Hong Kong

So I didn't expect there to be free food in Hong Kong. There's no tech talks, no free food mailing list, etc. In fact, I budgeted to spend USD$1500/month for food while I'm there. But recently, I discovered that there is food at Arup, the company I'm working at.

Every so often, building equipment suppliers come in to pitch their product to engineers and persuade them to install them in the buildings they design. And often, these suppliers also bring food to bribe engineers to come and listen. I attended one of these talks and they had fancy salmon sandwiches that were really good. Its just that one boxed lunch isn't enough for me.

So I waited for leftovers. But when the talk ended, I realized I wasn't the only one waiting for free food. 5 completely shameless people jumped out of their chair and ran straight for the food. I was a bit too slow and polite to get any.

Apparently, the different teams at the office send delegates to these talks to haul back the free food and share it amongst themselves. Sounds a lot like EC....

Here's the guy that brought back 8 boxes of food for my team. I think I need to learn some free food tricks from him.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Katie Goes to SoCal

Hi Putz!
I took advantage of 4th of July weekend by going to San Diego.
Unlike Ben and Jaguar, I fully embrace millennial selfie culture.
See, my friend Ryan from high school is there for the summer, so I thought I’d go visit him and see what all the SoCal hype is about. It's a pretty neat area. Beaches, deserts, zoos, Disneyland. I tried to get the full experience.
Easily the coolest thing I did in San Diego was hike. The terrain there is so awesome! We went on a trail I heard about from someone on my team at Google who used to live in San Diego: "Oh, you should totally do the Three Sisters hike! Uh, or maybe not. People die on it kind of often? Be careful, I guess."
Looks super cool! Totally worth maybe dying for.
Sounded like a rave review to me! Turns out hikers die/get injured there pretty often. But it has 4.5 stars on Yelp, so how bad could it be?
After arming ourselves with advice from the internet (tl;dr bring lots of water and don’t bring your dog), we set off to Cleveland National Forest. The landscape on the drive over was pretty cool.
I kept picturing scenes from Blood Meridian happening around me.
Shout out to putz 2013 book club, woop woop.

Sharing the road with some bikers.
Aaaand then we got to the hike! No one else was there, it was totally empty. I guess most people don't start this hike at 1 PM when it's already 90˚?

The start of the hike was a wide, flat dirt road. I was like, "What gives? I thought this was supposed to be hard. Maybe I'm just a really awesome hiker."
But eventually it turns into a typical, narrow hiking trail.
So it’s a normal trail for a while, and then, BAM. Suddenly you are on what feels like a 60 degree incline, covered in super slippery dust. I didn’t take many pictures of this because I was too busy trying not to fall.
It's hard to tell, but TRUST ME this is really steep.

Anyway, after hiking (read: tripping) down the mountain face (and becoming sufficiently caked in dirt), we got below the tree line. This part of the hike was the most fun. You kinda just climb up and down giant boulders and short, rocky cliffs.

Then we found water. That was pretty exciting, because it meant the waterfalls weren't too far.
For the rest of the hike, you follow the tiny stream back up the mountainside until you hit the waterfalls. After an hour or so of boulder climbin’, Ryan goes “Look! The waterfalls!”
“Huh?! Where?”
“Over there!”
“You’re kidding.”
Nope, not kidding. The drought is real. The totally awesome "waterfalls" were reduced to these faint, green slime trails.

This is not a waterfall.
So sad.
Well. The photos above are the first two sisters, but we couldn't see the third yet. We figured we might as well hike up and see if the last one was any better.
And it was! The third sister was not a total disappointment! It actually involved some falling water. Like, not a lot of water; it was like an EC shower on the lowest pressure setting. But hey, better than nothing.
The water fell into this little pond-like alcove, which was totally a paradise. After a few hours of hiking in hot weather, being in the shade was amazing. Swimming in the pond was also great.
You can see the trail we hiked down in the distance.

The third waterfall was so great I forgot to take a picture of it, but here's someone else’s photo.

Definitely the least disappointing waterfall.
Good stuff! If you're ever in the area, definitely check out Cleveland National Forest (especially if there isn't a drought anymore!)

One thing I noticed while hiking, and also while walking around San Diego's suburbs, is that desert trees are super funky.

I kept thinking, "These are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book."

And it turns out they are! Dr. Seuss spent the second half of his life in La Jolla (a coastal suburb of San Diego), and based the animals and trees in his books on what was in the area.
Pretty cool, huh? Well, that's all I got for now. Hope you guys had an awesome 4th of July too!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ich habe mir einem Motorrad gekauft

About a month after arriving in Germany, I got my hands butt on a Yamaha Diversion S 600 (1992). It only took about two weeks to track down a motorcycle and complete all the insurance and registration paperwork to get a license plate. 

Coolest souvenir ever...

The only kind of selfies you'll get from me. 

The guy I bought it from, Tycho, is super cool. He graduated from the Informatiks department at the Universit├Ąt Stuttgart (the department I have my internship with) and has a HAM Radio license. He also teaches at an Aerospace Lab that offers robotics classes for kids from elementary to high school ages. I've been helping out there ever since (they had a German astronaut who helped with the Philae/Rosetta comet landing mission give a lecture! It was awesome). But yeah, we rode down to a HAM radio convention down near Bodensee.  

It's actually not that far away (like most things in Europe). It was only 200km to Bodensee/Switzerland area (about a 2 hour drive). Though, we took the back roads through beautiful tiny German towns which took about 4 hours. 

CASTLES ARE EVERYWHERE! It's so COOL! I'm driving along, and just glance over at the top of some hill, and there's a CASTLE! What!? Cool! It's so old! And it's still there! Probably because it's on a hill... easy to defend. Whoa, just think of all those super old people. Cool. 

Bodensee is just beautiful. Hopefully these pictures can do it justice. 

The drive back through the sunset was also super pretty. I still can't get over the fact that I read about all these places in my AP European History text book "big jack". 

We took the autobahn back. The autobahn is basically what you think it is. A freeway without a speed limit. After you see the greyed out 120kmh sign with three stripes through it, the cars take off. Most go around 140kmh (84mph), but every now and then a car goes screaming past on the left. At first it was pretty scary. In the states, I'm used to checking my mirror once or twice before changing lanes, but on the autobahn I have to check three times to get a sense for the acceleration of the objects in my mirror. 

Not sure if you can tell, but the cars passing definitely sound much faster on the side of the autobahn compared to US interstate highway. If you look closely, some of the cars in the back are going really insanely fast. The slowest car you see in the foreground is going faster than the top speed limits in the US (which is 75mph in Texas).  It's pretty crazy, but also kind of relieving. I don't get a shot of adrenaline every time I see the polizei; perfectly legal :). 

Oh and the roads are so good! They're very well maintained, unlike Connecticut. 

The next weekend I drove down to Zurich to hang out with Sara Falcone. But before I left, I had a little chat with the polizei. 

Derp. I parked in front of some old guys driveway coming back from the Uni at 3AM. I arrived just in time to catch the police officer writing my ticket for 15 Euros. 

I got a nice sarcastic sticky note though :) (Exact translation: Thank you very much that you me parked in have. This is a drive way and not parking spot!)

Unfortunately Switzerland has speed limits on all their roads. On the way, I got flashed by a stationary radar detector. Usually they capture the front license plate and bill you in the mail, but lucky for me, motorcycles only have a rear license plate. :3

Sara had a crazy good view of downtown Zurich!

The first day we swam in the lake and grilled delicious W├╝rste with a few friends, and caught the Germany vs. England Women's World Cup game. Unfortunately, Germany lost (the game was actually really bad with England winning in overtime on a penalty kick and dragging out the game with delays. I definitely would never want to win a soccer game like that. Was not impressed by England). 

The next day we swam in the river. It was great. Zurich is a very expensive city, but there were a lot of fun free things to try that locals do over the weekend. 

Right before I got on the slack-line, the guy said, "Make sure you get far enough away from the bridge, and if you fall, don't fall towards the bridge. Otherwise; you'll hit your head on the steel... lots of blood." :3

Yep, I jumped off a 12m bridge 4 times.

WHOA! They have beer from Alaska! I didn't know people outside the state actually drank this stuff! 

Thought you guys would enjoy this. Practically every car has a putz. I've thought about hanging some big truck nuts around them too many times. Not sure how the Germans would take it. 

After my internship ends on July 31st, I'm roaming around Europe sleeping on people's couches. Planning 6,000 kilometers in 18 days.