23 May 2010: San Francisco sightseeing, continued

San FranciscoI’ve already blogged a bit about my trip to San Francisco for a work-related conference and my review of the latest Robin Hood movie. On Saturday, 15 May 2010, I took a taxicab from my hotel across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was swathed in fog. My driver was a Mongolian immigrant who took me to some overlooks, and I decided not to take a cruise to the former prison of Alcatraz. The weather was cool and damp, but I enjoyed strolling through the streets of San Francisco and looking at the varied architecture.

After being dropped off at Fishermen’s Wharf, I looked at souvenirs and the sea lion colony at Pier 39, saw historic warships on Pier 45, and ate some fresh crab and shrimp. I also sampled chocolate at Ghirardelli Square and was shown art by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Felix Mas at the Martin Lawrence Galleries.

I then took one of San Francisco’s famous cable cars past Lombard Street (the “crookedest in the world”) up to the Cable Car Museum near Nob Hill, which is similar to Boston’s tony Back Bay. Unfortunately, my recyclable camera ran out of film just as we reached that high point and as the sun came out.

San Francisco also has electric trolleys, buses, and a subway (BART). At the edge of the
Tenderloin, or onetime red-light district, I stopped in at the Beat Museum and had a good lunch of garlic-infused ravioli at The Stinking Rose, a restaurant recommended by David I.S. I walked down the steep hills to the upscale shops of Embarcadero (near the Transamerica Tower) and to busy Chinatown. At Yuet Lee Restaurant, I ordered noodles and dumplings.

After walking through the shops of the Westfield mall and Union Square looking in vain for a summer fedora and cheap blue jeans, I later took the 71 bus to the hippie
neighborhood
of Haight-Ashbury. I enjoyed the colorful people and, of course, independent bookstores such as Booksmith, Comix Experience, and GameScape. The combination of street musicians, boisterous youths, and liberal sensibilities reminded me favorably of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but with a more casual
vibe.

On Sunday, May 16, I had brunch at Mel’s Drive-in, a diner that Dave had also recommended. After catching part of the festivities and costumes (or lack thereof) around the annual Bay to Breakers Race, I took a shuttle bus to the airport. I raced through security and was put on standby for an earlier JetBlue flight than the one I
was originally scheduled for, but ended up just waiting for the later flight home.

Coming soon: Catching up on comics, genre television, and games!

20 May 2010: California conference

San FranciscoAlthough Janice and I haven’t traveled for work in a while, we’re making up for it this spring and summer! Janice’s technical communications conference in Dallas a few weeks ago went well. On Tuesday, 11 May 2010, I took a JetBlue flight from Boston’s Logan Airport to San Francisco for the Citrix Synergy conference. On the way, I rewatched the Richie/Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, which was decent. I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown near the Moscone Convention Center.

My first impressions of the city by the bay were positive. The business district reminded me of those in New York or Boston, with varied architecture, good urban energy, and a diverse population. I grabbed lunch at a Del Taco, which is similar to Taco Bell, then registered and attended the welcome reception. All of my meals for the next few days would be provided through the show.

Since this was my first time attending this conference as an associate site editor, I had a lot to learn. I went to the keynote addresses, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and laboratory demonstrations of virtualization technology with about 4,700 attendees (more than in past years).

I found the crowded sessions and vendor hall informative, but I didn’t get to interview as many users and prospective columnists as I had hoped. Fortunately, reporters Jo M. and Bridget B. and blogger Brian M. more than made up for it, and I visited TT’s offices near my hotel. I also enjoyed meeting peers at the press dinner at Ducca on Wednesday, May 12, including foreign correspondents Tony S. from England, Jolein de R. from the Netherlands, and Valery M. from France, as well as fellow New Englanders Carryl R. and Shelly F.

I didn’t get to see much of the host city in the first few days because of conference sessions, but I did talk with executives from Citrix and Intel. For the final night party on Thursday, May 13, we were bussed out to Treasure Island, which had an impressive view of San Francisco’s skyline. Comedian and “closet nerd” Sinbad was the headliner and was pretty funny. An open bar, live band, and several dining options made for a festive night in the large pavilion tent, making up for the fact that I knew relatively few people there.

Coming soon: Robin Hood review, sightseeing, and more!

27 April 2010: Crusaders visit

<!–[CDATA[Salem, Mass., April 2010

After hosting Byron V.O. from St. Louis and running Pathfinder: “Holy Steel” fantasy role-playing sessions the previous weekend, Janice and I hosted Damon F.P. and Steve M. on 24 and 25 April 2010. I’ve been friends with the guys since studying at Archbishop Stepinac High School in New York’s Westchester County back in the early 1980s. While onetime college roommate Frank P.D. was also in New England with his family, we weren’t able to meet him this time.

That Saturday, Janice cooked a tasty barbecue (Sloppy Joe) lunch, then drove Damon, Steve, and me up to Salem, Massachusetts. We had considered going into downtown Boston, but I’m glad we went somewhere different for sightseeing. Janice and I have gone to Salem for the festivities around Halloween, but this was Damon and Steve’s first time. We visited the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Trial Memorial, strolled through the historic seaport, and explored various shops.

We stopped in at an Army/Navy surplus store, Harrison’s Comics, and a newsstand with more comics and gaming supplies. We reminisced about school, talked about work and family, compared classic rock notes, and had a good dinner at O’Neill’s, an Irish pub. (A few days earlier, I had gone with co-workers to New Mother India on Waltham’s Moody Street.) That evening, Janice and I introduced Steve to Wii Sports Resort while Damon dozed. Janice and Steve did better at the golf and bowling than I did.

On Sunday, we had a pancake and sausage brunch after Janice served her weekly volunteering stint in Dedham, Mass. Steve and Damon then returned to Connecticut and New York, and Janice and I ran some errands at Legacy Place and continued booking our upcoming travel. Our busy weekends will soon continue with Free Comic Book Day and Janice heading to Dallas for a conference!