Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish"

This is kind of old news... But the video for this speech came up on my iTunes today.

Back in 2005, Steve Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University. You can read the whole speech here. But the following is what I thought was the best part:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart...

...No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Monday, January 15, 2007

London Adventures

The night after we went to check out Just Jack, a group of us went to the birthday party of the lead singer of a British band called Embrace. First we met up with some friends at a pub, at which Pavla was confronted with the largest beer glass she's ever seen:

Granted, the thing was only a pint, but it sure looked bigger. Anyhow, one of the beers she had been talking about since we got to London was a Czech beer called Budvar. Apparently, people have been brewing this beer in the town of Budweis since 1265. Unfortunately, they didn't really trademark the beer until 19 years after Anheuser-Busch came out with Budweiser. So for now, the beer is marketed as Budvar or Czechvar (its known as the latter in the US). This is what Pavla thinks of Anheuser-Busch and their trademark:

Here's a closer look at the beer:

Anyhow, soon we proceeded to the party, which was packed. It was held on the roof of this art gallery in Camdentown. The alcohol was a bit on the pricey side, but nothing unheard of in NYC. We saw several bands play, including this band called NeatPeople, who I thought were pretty great. The closer of the evening was a band called Keith, who Eryn thought were just peachy. (see picture)

Afterwards, Steph, Justin and I rode in a double decker bus to get home. Since the bus was near empty, we got to ride on the upper level at the front. Thing is, late at night, there aren't that many cars on the road. Add to that the apparent death wish that the bus driver had, and you get one exciting bus ride home. Plus, being on the top of the bus skews your perception of the road, so it always looks like you're going to crash into the median or a tree or something. This was by far the most exciting 10 minutes of the evening. Here's a pic I took during the ride:

More later!


Sunday, January 14, 2007

More stories from London

One of the things that we got to do in London was go check out some local shows. I missed the first one, due to a sore back. But I did make the second one! We made our way down to a venue called The Borderline to see Kevin Montgomery (see above pic), who is actually an American artist. I liked his music (even the more country sounding stuff), but man, did he tell long stories in between songs! I swear, his set would've been at least 30 minutes shorter if he'd just shut the hell up and play. And he kept making these weird gay jokes whenever he'd mention himself and another band member in the same sentence.

The following evening, we met up with Jackie's cousin Kim and Eryn's friend Cat. A bunch of us went to Wagamama for dinner (Boston location coming in Spring 2007!). Afterwhich we headed to the local supermarket in search of something sweet for dessert. Cat and Eryn got some chocolate... here's Eryn being very excited about this:

Here is Eryn and Cat finally enjoying their chocolate:

While the rest of the group enjoyed some ice cream bars:

Here's a sample of some UK-speak:

And here's Eryn... doing something strange (this picture is actually pretty funny because Eryn has a tendency to get carded a lot):

After dessert, we headed over to a nearby venue to check out one of the UK's newest up-and-coming acts, Just Jack. A mix of Jamiroquai and "a guy who doesn't sing quite as high, or well," JJ was entertaining, at least. And he didn't talk nearly as much as Kevin Montgomery. Nor did he make stupid jokes. Here's a pic of the show, which was sold out, by the way:

The following day, between classes, we hit up this pan-Asian restaurant for lunch. They charged us for everything. Extra sauce, a few chili peppers, take away containers... We were surprised they didn't charge us royalty fees for taking photos in their eating establishment. Anyhow, the food was pretty good and the portions were actually a size that satisfied my hunger... so hey, cheers to that. Also, Luis tried sushi for the first time. He had a salmon maki roll (one piece, not the whole thing). I managed to grab my camera in time to take a rather blurry picture of this event:

In hindsight, I thought it was rather brave of him to try it. I mean, I grew up eating it so it would be easy for me to think it was weird that people are so grossed out by it. But really, think about it. You're eating raw meat that's any number of weird colors, sort of slimy, and cold (or room temperature, at least). So thumbs up for Luis for taking the plunge. I don't think he's going to be hitting up the all-you-can eat sushi buffets any time soon, but I don't think he hated it!

More later!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007


More on London soon... but for now, feast your eyes on the latest work of genius from the folks at Apple:

Me likey. Check out the details here.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

We're walking, we're walking...

After class today, we took a walking tour of the East End with the same company we used for the Ghosts, Gaslights and Guinness tour, as noted in my last entry. Luckily, this one turned out to be much more interesting. At least, the stories were more interesting. Unfortunately, it got a lot colder during the course of the two hour ordeal. Plus, we were all STARVING, which didn't help.

What did help, however, was that the tour ended at Brick Lane, an area known for its Indian cuisine. Yum. We walked around for a bit, found a bagel shop that the tour guide claimed had the best (and cheapest) bagels in London, then made our way back up Brick Lane to a random Indian restaurant. I have to admit, though, that I was slightly disappointed with the quality of the food. It wasn't bad, by any stretch of the imagination. But it just wasn't mind-blowingly good. I haven't given up though... I will try again later this week, for sure!

Oh... Several of us were also very tired after the tour. Gorging ourselves on Indian food didn't help, either, as Pavla demonstrates here:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wandering About

Today we started class. We're taking them at Birkbeck College... Yes, there were a few gratuitous "brokeback" jokes, but I think we got most of those out of our system after a few minutes. After class, Jackie, Pavla, Luis and I headed out to explore the city a bit. We wandered down towards the Thames, past Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, across the Westminster bridge, then past the Robot Museum, the London Eye and made our way to pub along the river. Pavla was elated to find that they carried her favorite Czech beer, Staropramen, which was quite tasty, by the way.

After a brief rest at the hotel, Eryn, Stephanie, Tara, Ruby, Justin, Luis and I went on a walking tour through a tour company called London Walks. They have about 30 different themed tours. We decided to do one called Ghosts, Gaslight, and Guinness. Admitedly, I was mostly interested in that last part about the beer. But, the description sounded interesting enough:

This is the most haunted city on earth: unutterably old, built over a fen of undisclosed horrors, believed to contain occult lines of geometry. A city where the very mist is like a sigh from a graveyard. Now I don't want to weird you out, but where we're going tonight time past and time present can fuse...especially when the daylight bleeds away. If in a dark window you see an even darker silhouette staring back, or if the branches of a tree suddenly shiver like a spider's web that's caught something, or if you follow a stranger into a graveyard (or a pub where everything isn't as it seems) could well be wayfaring to the rebecks of eternity. Fancy a pint?

Now, doesn't that sound enticing? Well, we thought so. Unfortunately, we were wrong. The tourguide was creepy enough and played the part well. However, the ghost stories themselves were pretty lame and campy. Most of the ghost sightings he described happened about 75 years ago and haven't happened again since. Luis bailed about 20 minutes in. The rest of us decided it was time to go when we finally got to the pub and the tourguide declared "Okay, you can all go in and buy a pint now!" Please... If this 6 pound ripoff doesn't even include the pint of Guinness, then forget it. We found a pub of our own and I got me a pint of Guinness. Yum.

That's about it for tonight... I've uploaded a few pictures from our nighttime stroll below!


The First Day

My first night in London was pretty low key. I arrived on time and proceeded to customs, where I met with a bit more resistance than normal. The customs officer was obviously new to the job and was being trained by her supervisor. As a result, she was asking me practically every question in the book... and the ones that she missed were asked by her supervisor. They asked me what I was doing in London, so I told them I was here as a student, which is normally enough to get you through. However, they asked me for some sort of official proof of enrollment, which of course I didn't have because I wasn't officially enrolled in any London school. They kept asking for any sort of proof that I was here to do what I said I was here to do, so finally I gave them my orientation folder and study abroad handbook. The supervisor flipped through the handbook for about 2 seconds and said, "Okay that'll do." Jerky.

After going through all that, I grabbed my luggage and met up with Pavla, who was waiting patiently for me outside of baggage claim. We made a quick pitstop at the restrooms, the ATM, the phone, and then it was off to our first ride on the tube (that's what they call the subway here). The subway system in London is, for the most part, very efficient and clean. Like many train systems in Europe, they have signs telling you when the next trains are coming, which is so very nice. Supposedly they're installing those things in NYC, but who knows when that'll actually happen.

45 very crowded minutes later, we arrived at our Underground stop, Holborn. We ascended what must have been 5 or 6 stories of escalator and then finally got our first glimpse of downtown London. We made our way to the hotel, which was just a few blocks away and checked into our rooms.

One note about my room: I was fortunate enough to luck out and get a single room for myself at the hotel. I didn't sign up, or pay, for one, but the hotel ran out of doubles and was forced to give our group a couple of single rooms. And since the guy in the study abroad office who organized this trip knows me, he gave me one of them. In the immortal words of Butthead: Thcore.

First on the agenda was the reception for the whole London Study Abroad program, which included two other classes. We gathered in one of the hotel's conference rooms, talked, ate sandwiches and milled about. Then we headed to a nearby pub to hang out in a slightly less formal setting and get our first sampling of British beers. The funniest thing about this outing was the music. Initially when we walked into the Museum Pub (across from the gigantic British Museum), there was hardly anyone in there and no music playing. After about 20 of us settled in and started ordering drinks, the bartender decided it was about time to start playing some music... His first choice? That's right. Britney Spears. Which was followed by the likes of Avril and Christina and eventually hits like "Who Let The Dogs Out." Classic. Apparently, after the bulk of us left, they put on the Rolling Stones and left it on. It was all hilarious, no doubt... but next time I think I'll have to request they switch to the Stones a little earlier.

Then it was back to the hotel to rest up for the first day of class... More later!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Getting to London

For the most part, my trip thus far has been pretty uneventful. I suppose I should be thankful for that, considering the adventure I had trying to get to Sydney this past summer.

I did, however, experience one of the most beautiful sights I've seen from an airplane while taking off from JFK. It was a rainy, foggy and cloudy afternoon, so at first, take off was nothing special. In fact, for most of it, visibility ended about 10' from my window. But as we pulled up out of the thick layer of rain clouds, all of a sudden I saw blue sky and a mountain range of white, fluffy clouds. I mean, literally, it looked like someone had sculpted a mountain range out of water vapor. It was beautiful.

Due to my stupidity/oversight, I managed to book my flight such that I have a nine-hour layover in Frankfurt. Actually, I am sitting outside of a Haagen-Dazs in the Frankfurt airport writing this entry right now. I arrived this morning around 5:30 am, local time. Wanting to try to adjust my clock, I decided to try to take a nap first. The airport has a section of pseudo laz-y-boy type chairs... except they have no cushioning, and they aren't adjustable in any way. Oh, and they're definitely not made for 6'1" people. But, they were fairly comfortable, especially compared to the cramped accommodations of the economy section of the Lufthansa airplane cabin. Unfortunately, my body was just not having any of that. So after unsuccessfully trying to nap, I decided to explore the airport terminal a bit.

First, I got something to eat. I opted to avoid the McDonalds and go for the "cafe" instead. The only thing on the menu that looked appetizing in the least was the "Ham cheese toast." I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to get. I imagined getting a slice of toast with ham and cheese baked into it... or a piece of ham laid next to a piece of cheese, accompanied with a triangle of toast. Luckily, it turned out to be a ham and cheese panini of sorts... They managed to brown the toast on the outside while keeping the cheese slightly warm and the ham cold as ice. Lovely.

One interesting feature of the Frankfurt airport is the "smoking areas." Every 150 yards or so, you'll find a group of smokers huddled around what look like that little island at the bank on which you find deposit slips and such. Except instead of deposit slips, there are tiny vents which, I assume, are meant to suck in the smoke. Now, I'm not sure exactly who's trying to fool who, but let it be known that no one is really being fooled here. I would've figured that German people realize that simply getting smokers to stand closer together doesn't make the smoke any less hazardous or annoying to the non-smokers just trying to get a ham cheese toast for breakfast.

Also conveniently placed on these kiosks are smoking ads (of course). The funny thing is, the Germans, while perhaps unwilling to contain their smokers in an actual room, are perfectly willing to forgo the tobacco warnings that most Americans are used to seeing (i.e. "The surgeon general warns against smoking etc."). Instead, they've opted for a more direct approach. Written in huge block letters on every cigarette ad, box and pack are the words "SMOKING KILLS." Now, I'm glad that they aren't farting around with vague or misleading warnings about the dangers of cigarette smoke, but look... if smoking kills, why can't you just ban it from indoor public areas like we do?! Maybe they should have signs near the smoking areas that say "Don't come too close! Smoking kills!"

In other news, I'm officially sick of screaming babies. That's right. I'm tapping out. I can't take it anymore. Add to that category "insane hyperactive toddlers." Oh, and people. Put people in there too. I'm done with people as well. All I want is a hot shower, a clean bathroom that doesn't reek of human waste (yeah, the bathrooms are pretty crappy here), and a place to lie down that isn't the airport floor. Oh yeah, I took a nap on the airport floor... Because the wannabe laz-y-boy chairs were all taken. So I slept next to them.

Actually, another funny story... So while I was drifting off to sleep, I heard this old man stop and ask the fellow sitting near me, "Hey! You! Why are you sitting there?!" The guy sitting there was understandably confused, but simply answered, "I was tired so I sat down." The old man, apparently unaware that he might've been the slightest bit odd (or rude), plowed on with his questioning and began to interrogate the sitting fellow about the train system and where to find the nearest station. The old man then set off to find said train station. Old people are so weird.

It is now 12:15pm, Frankfurt time. They actually won't let me go through security and get to my gate until 2pm. I have another 2 hours to kill. Sigh. I think I'm going to go insane. Actually, I think going insane would be easier than waiting another 2 hours to get to the gate (at which point I'll have to wait one more hour to board the plane). On the other hand, going insane sounds like something that requires energy. And I'm running pretty low on that right now. Maybe it was the McDonalds I ate. ...Oh yeah, I got hungry again and went for the McDonalds. Here are a few notes about the McDonalds here...

For one, I don't know what is up with the rest of the world's McDonalds and having to buy ketchup. WTF, mate?? It's just ketchup! I mean, maybe this is just the wasteful, excessive American in me talking... But dude. It's just ketchup. Last I checked, there isn't a shortage of ketchup anywhere.

Also, their buns actually kind of look like the buns you see on the commercials. Y'know how normally you get your McFat Burger and the bun's all soggy and crap. Well, this one was actually nice and round. And slightly toasted! Amazing.

Additional menu items: As an alternative to french fries, you could order these french fry-like potato disks. Intriguing. You can also order this dessert that, from what I could tell, is basically deep fried chocolate balls. Normally, that would sound pretty awesome. Except for some reason, because it has "Mc" in its name, it kind of makes me want to vomit.

Alright, I am starting to get sleepy again. I have to decide if I want to take another nap and risk missing my flight ... or just grit my teeth and get a coke or something. yeah, I know... i should just go buy a coke. you're right.

Well, hopefully, my next entry will be from jolly old London! Wish me luck! (even though by the time you read this, your luck will be useless to me. But wish it anyway.)