Friday, June 26, 2009

i am here and it is awesome

Just a super quick post to let you know that I'm in Russia and it's great. Haven't had (free)internet until now so no time to post anything, but now we're in Moscow and there's a computer in our hallway that we can use for free so hurray! We got in from St Petersburg and it was fabulous. Now we're in Moscow for a few days. Once I get back to the States I will tell all about the trip and post about a million pictures. (I take a lot of pictures.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

my backpack

This is the complete list of what I'm taking, in case anyone is interested and in case I lose my own packing list:

What I'll Be Wearing
- Black t-shirt
- Jeans
- Running shoes
- Black belt

- 4 shirts, mostly black
- 1 pair of nice dress slacks, black
- 5 pair underwear
- 5 pair socks
- 1 running shirt
- 1 pair running shorts
- 1 pair nicer black shoes
- 1 sports bra

- Contacts
- Toothpaste, travel size
- Toothbrush, travel size
- Shampoo, travel size
- Conditioner, travel size
- Lotion, travel size
- Shower gel, travel size
- Deodorant
- Hairbrush
- Strips

- Camera (smaller)
- Camera cord
- 4 x4 packs of batteries
- MP3 player
- MP3 player cord
- Phone (to use until we take off from Chicago)
- Phone charger

In case of ...
- Band-aids
- Neosporin
- Aleve
- Cough drops
- Copies of passport, credit/debit cards, driver's license, e-ticket information
- Safety pins
- Addresses and phone numbers
- Hand sanitizer
- Chapstick
- Extra bag (can be used as 2nd carry on)

- Passport
- Electronic ticket information
- Wallet
- Journal
- Snacks (wheat thins, granola bars)

All in all I don't think it weighs more than 15-20 lbs max.

Okay so I couldn't resist taking a photo of my little bottles of stuff. They're so colorful!

officially: going to russia

Tomorrow I get on a plane out of LAX and eventually, after several more plane changes and long days, get to Russia.

This trip has been a long time coming and actually been very stressful to put together. I will explain as much of the backstory as I know, and hopefully it won't bore you too much :)

First off, my dad is originally from Russia. He immigrated to the United States when he was 15 and he hasn't been back. My brother wrote a screenplay and filmed several scenes about the move, and maybe he will let me put some of it up on the web (I will ask him) because it's really well done.
So I have always been interested in Russia because I would like to see where my dad grew up. I studied Russian for the past couple of years in college, but by no means am I fluent (far from it), and I enjoy Russian food.

This trip started because my brother, who is a theatre major at Butler University, is studying theatre with several of his classmates and his director, who is Russian, in Moscow for about a month. He has been there since the beginning of June. Dad thought that now would be as good a time as any to see some of the country (we are going to Moscow and St Petersburg). So we bought our tickets after a lot of research, and applied for our visas. 

Here's where it got stressful (actually, it was stressful already: the theater director lady was awful about telling us anything about the trip). We worked with the same travel agent as the other students and the director did for our visas. This was a bad idea. Up until about 4 hours ago, I didn't have my passport back. Do you realize how stressful that is? I am supposed to get on a plane at 2 o'clock tomorrow and I don't have my passport.

Luckily, it arrived safe and sound at about 1.40pm PST. Also luckily, I only had to work 4 hours today to fill out my 40-hr week, so I left work at 11 (yeah, I get to work by 7am), literally raced home (I got home in 19 minutes when it usually takes me 24), and physically sat on our front steps waiting for the FedEx guy. If I missed him, I was screwed, because they can't deliver inside our building, and I would have to wait until tomorrow to try to pick it up from wherever it is. But after only having to sit out there for 2 1/2 hours, most of the time during which I was talking to my mom on the phone, the FedEx guy came and I was so happy I almost cried. My dad also got his passport today, so we are all set to go.

I am traveling very light. I'm only taking a carry on with the most essential items: some clothes, my toiletries, my smaller camera and batteries, my mp3 player, my journal, and some snacks. That's it. I am not taking my computer or my nice camera, which most of my friends will probably be shocked when they hear about it. But my dad is bringing his computer, and the nice camera will just be a hassle to carry around and make sure it doesn't get stolen. 

Hopefully I can find some Internet to hop on during the trip. I will for sure be taking lots of pictures and keeping my paper journal, so I may end up transferring a lot of what I write in that over to the Internet when I get back. We'll see how it goes!

Here's to a great trip! Moscow & St Petersburg, I can't wait to meet you!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

so i am crazy and biked 100 miles in a weekend

Yeah. 88ish today, then the 12ish from yesterday.

I went up to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market this morning. I didn't know where it was so I decided to bike up to Pacific Palisades to get some extra miles in, then on my way back semi-randomly took a street and tried to find Main St. Actually, it worked out really well because one of the streets I ended up turning on spit out right next to the market -- convenient to say the least! The first thing I noticed about the market was that there were a ton of people, the next was that it was huge (or at least significantly bigger than what I'm used to!), and then that it was totally green. They have a "Zero Waste" policy! Awesome!

Check out those recycling and composting bins!

Crepe for lunch. I would live off crepes if I could...
It had chocolate (of course), bananas, and strawberries. Good.

Everything was compostable!

I ended up buying some organic fresh butter (!) and homemade organic garlic cream cheese-type spread. I would have bought everything at that cheese shop if I could have, and that's really saying something because I am not so much a cheese person. Anyway, that meant I had to get back home as soon as possible to get the items in the fridge. So as I was getting back from that ride I had this great thought of "let's ride the whole Strand from Redondo to Pacific Palisades today!" So I got home, rested a bit, charged up the Zen and got back on the beach. 

Starting point, at Redondo Beach, looking at Palos Verdes

Me really tired after getting to Pacific Palisades for the 2nd time today

So I am pretty tired from that, but it was a pretty good ride! And a good day :)

art walk & relax

This late morning/early afternoon I went down to Hermosa Beach to meet up with Andrew to find him some art. (He needs more art on his walls.) I raced myself and got to HB in 15 minutes. Wow, right? I cut time like whoa. Anyway, we were successful in finding him a piece of art. Actually, it is really cool. This lady exposes objects directly to photo paper instead of photographing them first and then developing the photos, and it plays with colors and lighting like no other. Super awesome! And the picture he got is really neat.

After that we walked around a bit more, checked out this mall that was empty (like, eerily empty even), then he left to go meet some people and I left to go home. Stopped in the bike store on my way back to my bike to see about baskets, but they were 20$ and up and man I'm just not going to pay that much for a stupid basket. Anyway, I feel like having a basket makes you lose some credibility as a legitimate biker. Most people with baskets are girls on Strand cruisers who don't know how to ride in the first place. Of course, it's not all people, and it would be convenient to have a basket sometimes (read: groceries), but still - that's a lot of money for a little wire frame.

As the afternoon wore on it actually got kind of sunny and much warmer, and the beaches filled up a bit more. So volleyball players and, more importantly, surfers were out in abundance. There is little more gorgeous than a talented, good-looking surfer. (Last summer I met the most gorgeous person I think I've ever seen while he was surfing and I was body boarding. Scott from San Diego, if you're reading this, ohmigodyouaresogoodlooking.) Other gorgeousness for the record: good runners, good soccer players, good swimmers. ........ I guess, really, the common denominator that I like is skinny, in-shape boys. ;)

About halfway home on the bike I got really tired and didn't feel that great, so I took it pretty easy. However, I did manage to bike all the way up the ginormous hill on Grand instead of stopping and walking the bike. Ironically enough it was because I felt like if I got off the bike I wouldn't have the energy to walk it up the hill. By the time I got home I had convinced myself to either take a nap, sit in the hot tub, or go get a pedicure. The pedicure won :) mostly because the place right by my condo is awesome - they have those sweet massage chairs and the people there are super nice. And they give really good foot massages.

That has been all I've done, really. Very lazy this afternoon, but I am feeling better so that's good. Tomorrow I am going to go to Santa Monica and try to find their Sunday farmer's market. (I simply adore farmer's markets, but I bet you couldn't tell ;) ) Hopefully it'll be nice out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

the week

So this week ended up being pretty busy but at the same time not that busy. Unfortunately for me, my computer is slowly dying (it's 4 years old this month, actually) and several days earlier this week it was being a real pain to try to do anything with. Also our Internet went out randomly during a time I wanted to blog. Anyway, let it be known that some of the money I'm earning this summer is going to buy myself a solid desktop, a widescreen monitor, and a netbook (or maybe just a superlight laptop). The laptop I'm currently on is going to turn into a fulltime Linux machine, instead of just having it partitioned.

Anyway, the week. Work was good. For my Python work, I finished grabbing all the data from the PDF and putting it in Excel. (This takes a lot more time and a ton of regular expressions than it seems at first glance.) So now I get to start on using Java to make SQL queries to look at data from this database and compare it with the data I found, which is now also in a database. It should be a lot of fun! I have never actually used SQL or databases before so I get to learn a lot. For my other work, I finished the script in Java I was working on this whole last week (I thought it'd take me like 2 days. It ended up taking 5-6. Sigh.). I am excited because everything I've done this summer so far has actually had a legitimate use, is important, and is actually kind of a time schedule. Woohoo! Yay for feeling useful!

After work I have been biking home. I changed up my route on a couple of days, so that sometimes I was riding on a highway (!). There is a super nice bike path on this highway, and there are very few hills. Monday I am trying out a new route one of my roommate's friends (and now one of my friends), John, gave me. He says there shouldn't be that many hills on this one either. 

Tuesday, I visited with John and Meryl for a little bit. Meryl is letting me borrow her ukulele and music for the summer! We chatted for quite a while (I could talk to them for hours!) and then I realized it was past my bedtime (seriously, a 21-year-old should not go to bed before retired people) so I had to leave.

Wednesday, a friend from last summer, Alex, started work again out here, which is awesome. Even more awesome is that he only lives a few streets away from me! So we ended up grabbing a drink at one of the bars here, going to dinner, and going down to the beach. Really fun night.

Thursday is Farmer's Market and Ukulele Day -- it is definitely my most favorite day of the week!! I picked up some DELICIOUS strawberries at the market, and also got some apples, zucchini, and fresh-made kettle corn! It's made in a real kettle! So cool and yummy. Some of the strawberries I took with me to ukulele class. People tend  to bring food to share with everyone else. It was really funny because Meryl also brought strawberries (from the same stand that I got mine, even!) and angel food cake. And someone else brought cookies. So we had a lot of food :) Class was fun. Meryl thinks I am pretty good at ukulele for only having played it for like 2 weeks. I am pretty sure it's all the guitar coming through. Learning on 6 strings and going to 4 makes it pretty easy!

Yesterday was Meryl's birthday. Karen and I went over to help her celebrate and most of their family was there. It was really fun, and I got to meet some interesting people. I felt like a grown-up because I was offered wine. Haha. The things that make you feel grown up! 

I wanted to sleep in this morning but I woke up at 7.45 so no go on that. I might be taking a nap later then ;) Should be a fun day - going down to Hermosa Beach for an Art Walk!

Monday, June 8, 2009

bike ride and lakers game

Today I had no plans at all. I figured I would just be hanging out by myself anyway, so when I woke up I looked at the weather. The day looked super nice (sunny and 70s) so I decided that I would try to go north on the Strand this time instead of my usual south. I actually had never been north (besides in a car) except for the bonfire we had last summer on Dockweiler, which can hardly be called going north because it was about half a mile up from El Segundo Beach.

Anyway, I basically decided to hop on my bike and see how far I could go.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was not too warm, and there was at times a strong breeze (which was kind of annoying and kind of nice at the same time). The smell of the ocean was everywhere and people were happy. There are a lot of bikers, roller bladers, walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and random other people like scooters.

I had planned on going to Santa Monica, which is where I thought the path ended, but it actually ends a couple more miles north of there, in Pacific Palisades. Awesome! I made it all the way there in exactly 1 hour and 40 minutes, and I actually was being really lazy about it for most of the ride. Following the Strand path takes you through Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica. I made it to Venice Beach in 45 minutes, actually!

Mural on the Strand by Dockweiler Beach

Plane above -- basically right under LAX
My awesome bike (I need a good name for it)

Me. I always wear a helmet. 
Also, that shirt gave me some sweet (and not-so-sweet) tan lines.

Proof I made it to Pacific Palisades!

View north

View south

Looking south. I don't think you can see where I started from

I was zoomed it at 16x digital zoom to get this shot of Santa Monica

When I got to the end of the path I checked my phone and one of my friends was inviting me to go watch the Lakers game with him and some friends tonight. So, of course, I agreed, although I am not really a Lakers fan (at all). I really enjoy being social though! And the game and atmosphere were a lot of fun. We went to a family (lol) sports bar & grill called Stick & Stein. Lakers fans are VERY MUCH into their team. As in, I have never seen any group of people more dedicated to something. It's actually kind of scary. And the Lakers won, so they were all happy. (LAL 101, ORL 96, Finals Game 2)

The bar had a ridiculous amount of TVs

Friend from work and his fiancee and me at the bar

Sunday, June 7, 2009

a fairly social day

Today I got to spend a fair amount of time with several different people.

This morning Andrew was super nice and took me to Target to return a bike helmet that I bought before I knew that Karen's sister Connie was lending me hers to use this summer (so nice of her!!). So that was a nice 20$ back on my card (which is good because I've only got like 50$ to last me till Thursday...I think. Hopefully payday is this Thursday?). Then I had a Target coupon, from when I got the helmet in the first place last week, for 50 cents off Poptarts. I went ahead and used that because although they're not the healthiest food (far from it) they are nice treats sometimes and they are really good at filling me up and keeping me full for several hours. So a box of 8 Poptarts ended up costing me 1.02$ (nice...especially because the same box would have cost 2.50$ at Ralph's!). I also took out that 20$ in cash. Around here, cash is always good to have on hand. Some places don't take debit/credit and other places it can be a lot faster for you if you pay in cash.

So then we drove to West L.A. so Andrew could get something he forgot at his grandpa's house. It was a pretty area and I love traveling around so I was happy :)  The L.A. freeway system is cool but crazy and totally different from everything I've ever known so it always takes me a little bit to get used to it again. Driving around here in general is kind of crazy all the time though, not just on the freeways!

Here is something we saw on the freeway--we can't figure out why Pepsi would just have a huge ad that says LOL. Because you laugh out loud when you drink Pepsi? No idea ...

After that we went to this restaurant (it's not nice enough to be called a restaurant though, more like a fast food place but better) called Zankao Chicken. They have really good chicken dishes there. This is what I had:

A quarter of a chicken with hummus, pita bread, and rice, and this super yummy garlic sauce stuff. I don't know what the purple things are, but I think the other bit is tomato. Anyway, I don't really like hummus and I didn't like the purple stuff, but the chicken and pita and garlic sauce and rice were delicious!

So then we headed back to El Segundo... Andrew was again super nice and took me to Ralph's to get groceries that I already ran out of. Who knew I would go through cereal, chicken, and granola bars so quickly?! Also, here is another funny picture from the freeway. Seriously, 341$? Not just, like, 340$? 

Also, if you were ever curious, this is what the place I work at looks like:

And then another friend from work, Chris, and I went for a bike ride / roller skate ride on the Strand. 

At first we were going to try to get up to Venice or Santa Monica (a good hour or two from El Segundo) but he realized he had to be home too soon for us to do that (he lives like an hour away) so we ended up going to Hermosa Beach and back. On the way there we stopped in El Porto and saw my friend Mallory from DePauw -- it's really funny, we almost see each other more in CA than in IN! 

On the way back from Hermosa we stopped again in Manhattan Beach and had ice cream at the Manhattan Beach Creamery. They have super good ice cream there, and now apparently they sell candies and chocolates and all sorts of baked goods, even popcorn and cotton candy! But they sacrified like half their seating for it. Anyway, it was super tasty and gave us the energy to get back to my place where Chris could start heading home from. 

Really fun ride. It was SO pretty today! We could see for miles and miles --- we even saw Catalina Island! And that's pretty rare!

North toward Santa Monica

El Porto

Later in the evening Karen and her best friend Gloria and I went to dinner at Scotty's in Hermosa Beach. We had a great window view of the pier and sunset and I got some nice pictures of the sun going down! Awesome dinner, too. I really enjoy Karen and I have liked all of her friends a great deal as well!

View down Grand Ave. in El Segundo

Sunset pictures from Scotty's
Hermosa Beach, CA

Saturday, June 6, 2009

busy is the word

Wow, so, I have barely had time to write anything. I have been going to bed about 9pm (lame I know) but I'm so tired! Plus I get up so early! I've been biking to and from work this whole week, and it's been going great. However, it basically means that I am too tired to do much else. I've swum a few days but I haven't been running. Hopefully this coming week my body will have adjusted to this schedule better and I won't be quite so tired.

Work has been great. I am learning Python for a big task, plus I get to do some website redesign stuff, so everything is right up my alley! Thursday I was an escort for the Herndon Science Competition and that was a lot of fun. Basically I walked around (/herded people around) the labs area and got some yummy liquid nitrogen ice cream. Soo good. Also, the keynote speaker was Mark Skaggs! Sweet!

Thursday night I had my first ukulele lesson at Mark's shop. So fun! I went back yesterday for some more practice. Hopefully I will either be able to get my own ukulele or borrow one from Meryl so I can practice whenever. The people there are very nice and helpful and super cool. Mark's shop is my favorite store ever. You can just go in and hang out and it's full of surf and skate and Hawaiian stuff. And there's bamboo on the wall.

This week on Wednesday there was a storm. What the heck? It legitimately rained & thundered & lightninged! How crazy is that! It's been cloudy and rainy the whole week mostly until about Thursday afternoon. Yesterday was nice and today looks like it'll be nice as well. I'm planning on going for a bike ride up to Santa Monica.

Monday, June 1, 2009

first day back at work

Today's work day was good! I biked to work, and it only took me 20 minutes! That is way faster than the bus. The bus would be like this: leave house by 6:15 in order to get to bus stop by 6:30 so I wouldn't miss the 6:40 bus, bus would leave and get to A-space by 7:07, then I'd have to bolt to STARS so I could get there as early as I could. With the bike, I can leave whenever (I ended up leaving at 6.25 just because I didn't know how long it'd take) and I got to work at 6.47. Pretty awesome. This is with some nasty hills and long traffic lights. (I ended up having to walk up some of the hills. You have no idea how steep & long they are unless you've seen them.) Once I got to work I had to get a temp badge so they wouldn't think I was an intruder and then go get my real badge from last summer. Before I could do this I needed to find a parking spot for my bike. Apparently no one really knew where any bike racks were, and I ended up finding one eventually (after going through a building and two visitor centers and a gate), and I needed someone with a real badge to open the gate for me since I didn't have a swipe part yet. Luckily a lady was very nice and did that for me :). Then I got my badge, and made the badge lady a little annoyed because I was there so early (it was 7.07). Then I had to wait for my manager, who wasn't here yet, and then the boss of my manager came by and said she wouldn't be here for a while I went to the library and read some web content design stuff. That is where Jose found me and told me our manager was there now (30 minutes before I thought she would be). So basically the rest of the day was running around, meeting with potential clients, catching up with the other interns and other people I know, getting a tour of the new building where I'll be spending about half my time, panicking because none of my passwords were working and therefore having to call the help desk (which is super annoying). My email is still not up because of some complications from the way I set it up last summer (sigh). But oh well. All in all it was a great day!

I left about 4.45, walked with Jose to the rail station, then rode home from there. Got home about 5.20 and immediately went on a short run, then came back and had a short swim. Have to make sure I prevent injuries and get lots of exercise :) Made dinner (just a chicken patty sandwich) and talked with my mom and now I'm pretty tired! The day is catching up to me. Luckily I can just go to bed whenever... :)

the strand

Yesterday I biked down to Redondo Beach from my place in El Segundo (it ends up being about 9 miles). Mostly I went because I had left the things I bought at Target on Saturday at Andrew's place and I wanted to go pick them up. I also wanted the exercise, and I just plain love The Strand. For those who don't know, The Strand is a bike path (also running/walking/etc) that goes all the way from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica, and most of it is right next to the ocean. *Amazing*. It's beautiful, well constructed, smooth, and a pretty easy ride (if you're not going against the wind). I went down there in the afternoon so I had some time to recover from Saturday's insanity. I ended up hanging out at Andrew's for a couple hours and met one of his friends, and we played Rock Band. I would like to point out that I got a 100% on vocals on all 3 songs I sang (2 on medium, 1 on hard). We were going to cookout but I realized it was going to take me at least an hour to get back, and I didn't want to ride in the dark, so I left around 6:15ish and got home about 7.25. It was a fun time though.

Also, I saw a dolphin on my way to RB, but I didn't have my camera (of course). Very cool though!