Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HabiFlat Al

Wanting to put poverty housing on his heart and mind, Flat Al arrived in Americus, Georgia. Home to civil rights era flare-ups, the Pecan Festival, the barbershop where Jimmy Carter gets his hair cut, and Nell. This is his tour of Habitat for Humanity International's Global Village and Discovery Center.It all started with some hypothetical thinking. Al's answer to this question: "It would be lame, and someone should do something about it." Way to think like Millard Fuller, (founder of HFH), Flat Al.Look like the 3rd world yet? Shouldn't. 1 in 6 children in the world's richest countries grows up in a house like this. So what's being done around the world?
"Viva simple, decent and affordable!" Mexico kicks off a tour of houses that are build according to the culture of the region with local materials and homeowner "sweat equity," hours of work that are put in to accompany no- interest mortgage payments for their new homes.
Papua's Got a Brand New House. Here, houses are built on stilts according to local custom. Building this way also helps prevent monsoon rains from wiping out the house.

Next came the Sri Lanka house. Here, Flat Al took a gander at cards that children wrote to Habitat for Humanity thanking the organization for helping rebuild their homes after the tsunami. It was here that Flat Al also established that his body is in fact "Buddhalicious"...
...but he's not Ghana let it go to his head. "I really Haiti poverty housing." Because of the climate, Habitat for Humanity homes in Haiti feature a special type of block that allows air to circulate.
Fresh out of puns, Flat Al takes in the scenery. Consulting with Nell Pittman, Project Coordinator for the Women Build program, Flat Al asserted his love for the ladies and all they do to promote transformational and sustainable development.

Feeling accomplished, Flat Al wipes his brow and reflects on a day advocating on behalf of those in need of decent shelter.

**For more coverage of the Global Village and Discovery Center, check out Stephen Colbert's report for the Daily Show:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Goodbye SF!

Today is Albert's last day in the Bay Area. He's seen San Francisco. He's seen Mountain View. He's seen Napa. He's been on the bay several times. What hasn't he seen? Oh yeah, Berkeley!

Today I showed Al the building that I'll be spending the next 5 years of my life: Soda Hall

("Study as hard as you like; I'll still be smarter than this entire building of CS grad students and profs combined." --Al)

Then I showed him the great landmark of Berkeley: The Campanile, a nice clock tower that you can hear chime from my apartment.

And that's about all I know about Berkeley. It's ok. Grad students are notorious for not knowing where anything is on campus. But maybe I'll be able to show you more if you come out here to visit *hint, hint, nudge, nudge*

And with that, Flat Al is off to his next adventure!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Albert Tours Erika's Apartment

It's almost time for Al to fly off to his next destination. But wait, he never got a tour of Erika's new apartment! An awesome 3 min. walk from the Computer Science building (that's about 3% of the time it takes to get to Google), Erika's apartment sits on a hill on the nice side of Berkeley's campus. Here's the gorgeous view from the balcony (when it's not foggy you can see the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge):

The apartment as a whole is equally nice, but right now, many of the rooms are slightly messy (boys....), so you'll only get to see some things (basically the dining room and bedroom)
The dining room:

Note the Roomba on the floor. This self propelled vaccuum cleaner is a modern day miracle...although it did try to run Albert down a few times...

And last but not least, my room:

It's the night before my first day as a graduate student, so I'm off to catch some ZZZzzzz...
(As you can see, Albert already got comfy on my bed.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Al's Last Week at Google

This week was a sad week for Erika and Albert: It's their last week at Google. Flat Al will miss the fun Authors@Google series (where book authors would come to give a talk) and Presidential Candidate circuit (where all presidential candidates stop and give a talk at Google. We saw Ron Paul talk. Apparently Barrack already came. Sorry, Victoria.). But most of all, Al and Erika will miss all the super cool Googlers they met during the internship. :'(

But it wasn't all tears this week. On Tuesday, Google held it's annual Google Dance!! It was definitely THE BEST event of the summer. There was pool, karaoke, and a dunk tank! Al and Erika scarfed down root beer floats, milkshakes, wine, and then we were off to dance. I can't really describe it, but the music was definitely a gazillion times better than any club or school dance that I've been to. And with the free flowing alcohol, there were fun times to be had. I was wayyyyy past Asian-blushy :)

It was a goood last week.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jam Packed Week Pt. 2

Then on Thursday, Flat Al had another treat. Vienna Tang, who he saw last week, came to Google to do a performance. So we all ate BBQ while we listened to lovely music outside.

This week has been great, but the best week has yet to come...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jam Packed Week

In the past couple days, super cool things have happened at Google. On Friday Aug 10th, the author of the PhD Comics, Jorge Cham, gave a talk at Google. If you haven't read his comic, check it out:
It's a web comic about graduate students. It's a sad sort of way. Yeah, that's pretty much what my life will be like for the next 5 years...

Then on Monday, Albert was around when Wyclef Jean came to Google. Wyclef sang some songs, did some free-styling, and even challenged one of the Google employees to a push-up contest. Check these links out:

The next day (Tuesday), Albert attended the VP's Engineering summer picnic. It was awesome. There was more yummy food, a rock climbing wall, caricature artists, henna tattoo artists (Erika got a pretty flower on her shoulder), and an Iron Man maze (it's like a moon bounce/gauntlet that you race someone in). Oh yeah, and there was Human Foosball. No, it's not the same as soccer. You actually get a harness and are stuck to a bar... :) Super cool.

Then on Wednesday, we had the End of the Summer Intern Boat Cruise. We looped around the Bay, passing the Bay Bridge and going under the Golden Gate bridge.

I hung around up top for a while. (Albert feared for his life so he stayed in my pocket book where it wasn't so windy.)

(Me and my Google host, Nate.)
(Me after I stole Nate's hat :)

Soon it got dark, so I went inside the boat and hit the dance floor.

(Dancing with the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Google, Alan Eustace :D He's sooooo cool.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Vienna Teng and Barry Bonds... And Albert

Today Albert, Erika, Erika's two roommates Henry and George, and Michael, went to see a free concert in Palo Alto (where Stanford is) given by Vienna Teng. Her music is really good. You should check it out.

(That's her in the far back. She's wayyyy smaller than Albert.)

Coincidently that same day, Erika's host at Google, Nate, went to see the SF Giants vs. San Diego Padres baseball game in the city. If you recall, that's the game that SF player Barry Bonds broke the homerun record. Not only that, Nate was two rows from where the ball landed -- which then proceeded to roll back to his row. Even better, you can see him on almost all clips of the homerun that were aired that night. For a good video, check this out: . That's him in the red box. Definitely click on the comments and look at some of the videos. You can see his friend getting the beer hit out of her hand and then seeing his other friend getting beer poured on him...Teehee.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Albert's Day at Google

Although Flat Al has already been to Google, he hasn't had a tour of the campus until now. When Albert got off the Google shuttle, the first thing he saw was rows and rows of bikes.

Because Google has a ton of buildings spread out over the area, they decided to put bikes at each entrance so that employees can just bike on over to other buildings for their meetings...or maybe just for lunch... Google also has "conference bikes" (like tandem bikes but it has 7 seats circularly located around one hub that someone can steer). Best part: It has Wi-fi so you actually can have a conference on it if you want to.

Anyway, I digress. Einstein then ran over to the first building to take a picture with the huge Google sign:

And then looked at the courtyard where employees like to take their lunch:

(Google has 16 cafes in the area - each one has a theme: there's a tapas place, a sushi place, an pure ingredient place (where all ingredients are made on site), a carbon neutral place, a European food place, a smoothie place, etc...all super delicious gourmet food, all free :) You can get all three meals at Google. Erika normally starts the morning with yummy pancakes, french toast brioche with blueberry mascarpone filling, omeletes, or crepes. It's a good thing that Albert's flat, cuz Erika was definitely in danger of gaining the Google 15... :( Even "worse" was the "100-foot rule" where no-one ever has to walk more than 100 feet to get food. But at least the microkitchens are stocked with super healthy food... :)

Erika then lost Albert for a few seconds when he decided to play hide-and-seek in the vegetable garden.

(Can you find him?)

On his explorations, Albert encountered some peculiar flamingoes.

These flamingos have been known to move around over night. Or put on ponchos and sombreros for Cinco de Mayo. They also like to get into formation and attack the dinosaur. What dinosaur, you say? Why, Stan the T-Rex of course!

Stan, put Albert and that flamingo down! Don't worry, he's just playing... Although over the course of a week, I have seen a flamingo start in Stan's jaw and then progress down it's rib cage and into it's stomach...On second thought, maybe Albert should just stay away from Stan...

Albert then took a tour of the laundry rooms, Google gyms, the 2 infinite pools (complete with lifeguard!). The infinite pools are small 10ft x 5ft pools that create a current so that you can swim upstream.

Finally, what day is complete without a trip to the masseuse followed by a game on the beach volleyball courts:

("Look! I'm taller than all these people," says Albert.)

BTW, that's my co-workers playing there. They are super good!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Albert and the Intern Go Game

Today was a big day for Albert (and Erika). All the Google interns got a break from work to participate in a huge mixer: The Go Game. ( ) For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a huge scavenger hunt that takes place in San Francisco. Designed as a team building activity, you'd think it'd be boring, but it was totally cool.

Since the game started at 11AM in SF, instead of waking up at 5:50 AM to drive down to Mountain View and drive back up to SF, Albert and I slept in a bit and then took the BART to the City. We arrived at the meeting place a little early, so we took some pictures:

Another pier with a funny old ship. (Contrary to how it looks, the guy in the orange jumpsuit in the background is not a convict doing community service but is actually one of the organizers of the Go Game.

Across the way: the Ghirardelli restaurant (SF is home to the Ghirardelli chocolates)...Yummmm!!

Once everyone arrived, we were randomly put into teams. This was ours:

With over 300 interns, there were about 40 teams of 7 or 8. Each team got a cellphone (to receive our missions/questions/riddles and text our answers) and a camera (to take stills and video with). Once the whistle blew, all the teams scattered to find our next location. Sometimes we had to go to a place and find a person to complete an activity: Ex. We had to find a "spy" and figure out the combination on their suitcase by unscrambling the code from a set of Scrabble letters. Another time we had to find a girl that was crying and find out the name of the guy that injured her (she was a jilted bride and we had to coax the groom's name out of her). Or find a "military" guy and do his boot camp -- basically we had to follow his orders and do retarded jumping jacks down the street, etc. For other missions, we had to solve riddles or answer questions. And for others we had to make skits or take pictures. For one we had to act out a historic event but express it as a dance. My team did "The Dinosaur's Extinction." There were tons of really creative missions that kept us running around the city. Needless to say, Albert only popped his head out of my purse occasionally. After the game ended, we all went back to Google to see everyone else's videos and pictures.

It was a great day, and Albert and I went home at the end of it quite tuckered out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Albert at Alcatraz Island

A few days later... It was a sunny Sunday morning when we got up bright and early to take a trip to Alcatraz -- home of the Civil War fortress turned military prison turned high security Federal prison turned Historic Landmark and National Park. Alcatraz Island is most famous for housing nefarious criminals including "Machine Gun" Kelly and Al Capone (who died in prison of syphilis -- I'm not sure why, but that kinda makes me giggle).

This visit involved a ride into SF on the BART (SF's equivalent of the Metro), then a trip on the Muni (the local trains within SF), then a bus to the piers, and finally, a ferry boat to the island (Yay, ferry boats! I love ferry boats, esp. with that Bay Area wind!):

(waiting for the bus to the pier)

(Yay, the Embarcadero!)

We boarded the ferry, and in no time we were getting farther away from the Bay Bridge (the bridge that you cross to get to SF from Berkeley):

And closer to Alcatraz:

While we were on the ferry, Michael also took the time to show Albert his iPhone.

Needless to say, Albert was sufficiently impressed.

Soon enough we arrived at Alcatraz Island.

We were ushered into the forbidding fortress, where we then proceeded to climb the hill to the prison. With our tape players in hand, we proceeded to walk the halls (following the audio tour).
Albert highly recommends taking the audio tour -- if you can stomach the sound effects for the re-enactments: the squish of the knife during the cafeteria fight, the pop of the gun during the attempted escapes.

As we were leaving, Albert got a little snappy with the guard - who then proceeded to throw us in jail :(
(Errmmm...Michael didn't get the memo that we were supposed to be sad...)

Soon enough the guards got bored of us and let us go...Once we were back on the mainland,
we headed over to Boudin's Restaurant for some yummy clam chowder in a sourdough bread
bowl. MmmmMmmm!!! Classic.

Keep with the tradition of Albert trying to take on animals much larger than himself, we have this:

Yup, that's a sharks jaw...
But all is well. I tucked Albert back into the safety of my purse and headed home.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Flat Al Goes to NorCal - First Stop, Google

Sorry for Albert's long absence from the blogspot. It was an unfortunate combination of him being extremely busy having fun (and being slightly sleep deprived ;) and Erika's laptop being at the repair shop for one whole month...yeah, it was ridiculous - but that's a story for another time... Anyway, the important thing is that now Albert is here. He did the whole SoCal thing; now it's time to see what NorCal is like.

From Old Dominion to Sunny California, Albert made his way to Erika's place in Berkeley. For the past couple weeks, he's been traipsing around the Bay area --seeing Berkeley, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Mountain View, among other places.

On July 27th, Flat Albert woke up bright and early (5:50 AM !!) so that he could catch the shuttle to Google with Erika. It was a 30 min walk from her apartment to the Google shuttle stop and then a 75 min. ride to Mountain View, home of Google's main campus. Yes, it's a long ride, but at least they got to sleep in the comfty reclining leather seats. Albert was surprised to find that there was Wi-fi on the shuttle...but instead of taking advantage of this, he laid back and pondered his theory of relativity (a.k.a. went to sleep).

In the office, Albert sat quietly and looked out the window while Erika did some work. Even he's not allowed to see that Google confidential stuff. But at least he had a great view:

(This picture may look ugly...but it's a picture of one of the many solar panels scattered on the rooftops of the Google buildings and parking lots. I love Google. It's such a green company. Sidenote: A more impressive picture can be found at: )

Albert didn't have to look out the window for too long however. His first introduction to Google was at it's 2nd Annual Summer Picnic. Google rented out the Amphitheatre next door and had a carnival. They had a circus complete with a ribbon dancer (or whatever they call it. You know, Victoria, it's that thing that Pink did when she opened at the Justin Timberlake concert.),
acrobats and ridiculously muscle-y guys,
jugglers, trapeze artists, and contortionists...This looks impossible.

But it's not all fun and games aimed at kids (although they did have a petting zoo, carnival games, and henna tattoo artists)... they also had ALCOHOL!!! :)

Here's a picture of Albert, me, and my Berkeley CS grad student friend and fellow Google intern, Michael before...

...And after. (Yeah, that's Albert taking some of my Hurricane. It's ok, he's over 21. Also, note, Michael double fisting with the Hurricane and a beer....classy... Also, yeah, I'm Asian blushing a tad...). And the other person is Henry, one of my roommates.

Then we watched some people perform at "Google Idol" -- Google's very own talent show.

After the picnic, Michael, Albert, and I hightailed it out of there, and drove to Oakland to see one of the Berkeley CS professor's play, "Oh My Godmother" -- the modern day, gay guy version of Cinderella set in SF. ...Sorry, no photography allowed. But if you ever get the chance to see it, you should. It was hilarious. Both the prince and the "Cinder-Albert" characters were cute...and I'm reasonably certain that neither one was gay :)

After this action packed day, it was off to bed for Erika and Albert. (Einstein, not Cinder-Albert ;)