Las Vegas Birthday

In 2005 we revisited the old Vegas stomping grounds again, this time for my birthday. This trip held a series of firsts–my first time dining at Nobu, and first time staying at THEHotel at Mandalay bay. Firsts of many times I hope!

Ever since a few friends of mine got me the Nobu cookbook a few years ago, I’ve wanted to try the restaurant. They say that the Original in new york is the best, but the vegas one was pretty good in my opinion. the “new style” japanese food reminded me of some establishments in SF like kabuto A&S, but will hipper ambience and little details like how they served their house sake in a frozen bamboo container. Cups too! The one problem with eating at a place like that is that you have to have a lot to get full, which gets expensive pretty fast. That said, we did see Dave Navarro, guitarist for Red hot chili peppers & janes addiction, eating with his crew (minus carmen electra).

i LOVED TheHotel at Mandalay bay. Somehow my friend d with his infinite knowledge of the inner workings of las vegas got us good rates for the room and I’m spoiled for life. There were a total of 4 flat screen TV’s in the suite–a huge one in the outer “entertainment” room, one in the bedroom, and two(!!) in the bathroom. I took a luxurious bath in the lovely bathtub while watching TV–a great way to pass time. Speaking of water, the best thing about Mandalay bay is the pool area complete with tidal wave, multiple hottubs, waterfalls and the lazy river–a circular pool complete with gentle current–on which I could have spent hours drifting around on the pink innertube I bought for $8. Unfortunately the pool area’s only accessible to hotel guests so I’ll have to wait till the next time we decide to stay a bit off strip to enjoy it again.

n and m also took us to a special tour of old las vegas, which had a decidedly different flavor than the flashy strip. Reminiscent of Reno, the two focal points were the enormous light display which put on a show coordinated to music every 15 minutes, and binions, where the world poker tour is held. It’s always cool to see a place in person that you’ve seen many times on TV. although we seemed out of place walking among the Vegas locals, old vegas had a charm of its own and would be worth a repeat visit.

Party on Oracle!

The one and only party I’ve been to at Oracle’s expense was a 10g release party, which was held by the server tech (the profitable) division. they rented out San Francisco city hall, and decked it out with food, entertainment, and music. They had different rooms with musical and food related themes, but I remember many of them being pretty loud. Entertainment included cultural dances of various nations, including a dragon dance with the dragon throwing out candies at the audience!! All in all, I always love an excuse to get dolled up in formal wear, so it was a fun time.


At some point after my gaming phase, I decided I needed to get outdoors more and I’d always wanted to know how to play basketball. I got a few friends of mine to join me, and we were matched with a bunch of free agents down in the Campbell beginners league. The team was called Swoosh. it was the first time playing organized ball for many of us, and we didn’t realize how uniquely talented the other girls on our team were. Specifically, our center was a russian model (and I mean runway, folks) named vallya, who I’m convinced I remember used to play for the russian national team or something. She was tall, graceful, and attracted so much attention in the block that the rest of us were open to take wide open shots.

Karen was our captain. A student at San Jose state, she was fiery but very patient with us, teaching us the most basic fundamentals about the game. She also used to throw these wicked lob passes down the court to me so that I could make fast breaks. We were fast back in the day, comparatively at least. In fact, one team in particular commented in a nasty fashion that we were “too young for this league”. It was as close to brawling I’ve ever gotten. Tracy and Teresa were two other adept and friendly players. Tracy, I remember, played our last games of the seasons and then broke the news she was a few months pregnant! And then there was Laura. Laura stayed with us after the campbell league had ended, through the brief forays we had in Menlo Park/EPA, to our current home in San Carlos. Always enthusiastic, and always opinionated.

My dad happened to catch
our last game of the season, the championship, which we won!! i made two fast breaks, and c and the crew said he was going nuts on the sidelines. In my family, none of us are all that althetic, so he was very surprised. My mom told me later he went home and said, “s plays basketball, and surprisingly she’s pretty good!”


There are few greater feelings than walking into a room, (somewhat) unsuspecting, and finding all your friends in there, shouting “surprise”! and wishing you a happy birthday. A very honest and jittery c pulled it off when I turned 26–the happy event was replete with good friends, presents!, and legolas (who eventually was banished to my closet door).

It’s hard pulling off a surprise, especially when people are on asian time, and you aren’t there to drill-seargeant everyone in to place because you’re busy keeping the surprisee busy. But it’s the tiny mishaps along the way that make surprises funny and memorable, like n, m, and d trying to hide behind the mailboxes in the entryway to me and e’s apartment, doing their best not to be discovered!

In any case, tow has, hands down, the best pictures. He makes everyone shine!

Goodbye, Fremont

Many people don’t know this but I didn’t learn how to drive until I’d graduated from college. Because of this, while deciding on a place to call my post-collegiate home, choices were limited to areas accessible by BART, so that I could commute to my job in SF in the mornings. I was very lucky at the time–completely naive, I didn’t even have a roommate and ended up finding Old Roomie on an alumni mailing list. she was a few years older and so much more liberated and worldly…she certainly made life very fun.

We settled in a four room single family home, just off the bridge in fremont. Through the years, a number of 3rd roommates cycled through the place, some real cool but some just plan psycho or difficult to live with. For four years we lived there! I never thought time could pass so fast. Despite the stigma of living in Boring Fremont, I found that when the time came for our landlady to sell the place (and us to move out), I was sad to leave.

Reasons why Fremont is a great place to live.
1) Half Price Books – my favorite bookstore to this day. Spacious, clean, and browseable, they carry a very current selection of new releases at very reasonable prices. and they pay cash for the stuff you trade in!
2) Largest afgan community in the United States, making for some great Afghan restaurants – my favorite was the “Kebab Place” on Fremont blvd, a literal hole in the wall with two grandmas behind a charcoal stove. The lamb kebabs were excellent, as were the stuffed potato crepes served with yogurt. If you could get past the grit, so delicious.
3) Uncle Yueh’s – this place closed down, but they had the best scallion pancakes I’ve ever had in my life (except yours, grandma 🙂 ) peppery, and crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. they also had excellent shao bing jia rou (sesame pastry with beef & cilantro), lots of cantonese slow cooked soups, and a very tasty taro and duck dish.
4) Pho 99 – in its day, excellent pho, vermicelli bowls, rolls, and pearl tea. cheap, too!

5) Accessible: to 680 – a beautiful drive to pleasanton as I did for about a year, 880, 84, and 237. Fry’s electronics, what used to be Tri-City sports, Old Navy and Marina Foods
6) Little Taiwan. enough said. If you like hot, look for ninji hot pot, which comes in three intensities: mild, hot, or searing.
7) it’s cheap, cheap, cheap. we had a huge place, and the landlady liked us…I think I paid around 650 a month!

When you’ve been living in a place for a while, a home is like a living entity, it becomes a part of you with a personality of its own. In the four years we lived there, we had collected various furniture and had gotten things to a state where they were “just right”. It was hard to leave when it was time.

We’re free–let’s roast marshmallows!

Ahh….there’s nothing like the smell of a wood burning fire. Unfortunately, with California’s environmental laws, wood fires are few and far between. You can hardly even find them in home fireplaces anymore as new homes are mandated to be built with gas–a shoddy substitute. After some research, I found that one of the only places in SF to create this elusive scent in public was at Ocean Beach. I few friends and I donned windbreakers, packed up the tiki torches and campfire forks, bought plenty of marshmallows (and other roast-friendly foods) and were on our way.

It was ridiculously hard to get the fire started. 100% of the attendees were engineers and more than 90% were EE/CS, so I guess you could say weren’t well versed in the material science/chemistry aspect of the exercise. After numerous attempts using a variety of methods, materials, and a dangerous (and probably not appetizing) amount of lighter fluid, we finally threw in the towel and “bartered” for a flame from some of our fellow fire lovers on the beach. In no time at all however, we had a cheery blaze going, and started on our way to quenching the flame of hunger.

A few notes about roasting things to eat on the beach: 1) it’s sandy 2) it’s windy too, so sand will likely get in your food no matter how hard you try to block what you’re eating with your body 3) foil is your friend 4) curry fish balls and pre-cooked sausages work well 5) potatoes and corn do not 6) no matter the sand, the cold, the wind, and the consumption of undercooked food–everyone is guaranteed to have a fabulous time.

Photo credits to t and jk–thanks guys!!

One of Many Ski Trips

March 2003, I was still learning how to snowboard at this time and getting tutored by someone with personal incentives in me picking it up. 🙂 A few of us hit the slopes together, staying close to Reno during one night of the two day trip so that we could follow a frustrating day of falling on one’s butt by the exhilaration of winning lots of money! It was during this trip that I hit my head so hard on a fall I blacked out for a few seconds, scaring the people around me (although it was sort of cool riding the snowmobile down the mountain into the infirmary). I swear my memory hasn’t been the same since…but maybe that’s just old age?

We followed the trip with a group stop at Claimjumper’s–my first time. They have humungous portions, as is evidenced by this large-portion lamb shank. But the food is not half bad–comparable to max’s, but bigger.

I saw it first

A few weeks after my 25th birthday, I took a trip to vegas with a few good friends of mine from childhood, who met me in this relatively central location from Michigan. We were tagging along with some avid gambler friends from the bay area who, found a us deal for $39 dollar rooms, something fairly unheard of these days. Among other things, I was delighted by my first trip to Bellagio, the lovely lovely fountains which transfixed me, and the better-than-average champagne brunch there…which featured chocolate dipped strawberries, a whole plate of them.

I also got to witness the pre-date “dance” of two said friends, who were by virtue of both being fans of autos enough to join the auto industry (for different reasons), getting to know each other better after having satellite circles of acquaintance through our childhood. “r, you should take e dancing. ” 🙂 Guys–if you’re reading–I saw it first.

What Started It All

The year I turned 25, old roomie and I decided to throw a party to remember. Although the cops did not show up this time…much fun was had by all, which is typically what happens when different social circles mix. Old roomie’s friends really took “dressing up” to a new level, many of them coming in with group themes. The winning costume for the evening was a throwdown between anime couple, and hugh hefner/playboy bunny–I forget who finally won! See more of the festivities.