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 ;)

A Flat Albert 4th

Following some unforgettable times in South Carolina, Flat Albert thanked his fronting friends for an amazing weekend and set off for his next adventure- a 4th of July celebration in Fauquier County, VA. Before passing the SC state line, though, Alina wisely suggested that they stop to buy fireworks that are unavailable (i.e. illegal) in Virginia.

Entering the store, Flat Al paid no mind to the 'No Smoking' signs. "I'm a rocket scientist- I think I know what I'm doing," he asserted.

Al looked over and noticed that Alina was deep in thought, mulling over the many options...
and so he decided to help her find the right fireworks. He dismissed getting Nuke Power, expressing dismay over its consequences.
"Nuclear power is soo last century."

Later on, he found just the right ones to fit his image:
With the perfect fireworks in tow, Alina took Al home to spend the next few days getting everything ready. On the big day, the Harway family and Flat Albert treated their guests to a delicious cookout, great hospitality, and scenic views of Delaplane. Gaby was ecstatic when dusk came because she couldn't wait to light the sparklers:

The sparklers were hopefully just a taste of the spectacle to come. As the festivities began, however, Flat Al was a bit skeptical as he waited around:
"For serious? A black hole is more illuminated."

Seconds later, a startled Flat Albert was eating his words:
Some of the fireworks reminded Al of the atomic bomb and the Trinity test:
"I am become death", or: "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. "

Albert knew not to be afraid, though, 'cause none of them can stop the time. Luckily, the rest of the show was just breathtaking...
Marveling at the beauty of the display and what it meant, Albert was swept with a sudden pride for his adopted country and he burst into song:
"And the rockets' red glare..."
"The bombs bursting in air..."

Awestruck by the grand finale, Flat Albert saluted the display, proclaiming,
"Today we celebrate our Indepedence Day!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fronterfest 2007

Flat Albert couldn't wait for his next adventure, to Fronterfest 2007 in Columbia, South Carolina. Organized by host Allison Waller as a weekend of fellowship and revelry, it promised to be the largest known gathering of fronters on the east coast. Before setting off early Friday morning, Al and his fronting friends fueled up with members of Al's family.
Al left the family business of coffee and bagels to pursue darker matter.
Flat Albert hit the road, and a few hours later, made the requisite stop at the monument to roadside kitsch, South of the Border.

Al browsed through the souvenirs and tried on a few hats...

"Llamame Alberto"

and wandered amongst the oversized wildlife...
but soon saw South of the Border for the tourist trap that is was:
Al rescued Roy from death in the jaws of tacky novelties, and the fronters escaped to continue on to Columbia. There Allison and her friends treated the fronters to a wonderful dinner of spring rolls, edamame, and soba noodles with vegetables in peanut sauce. As the fronters enjoyed a dessert of exotic ice cream flavors, Flat Albert hit the lights and decided that it was time to get the party started.

Blast off, it's party time!

The fronters rejoiced. Not only was the life of the party present, but Flat Albert's eye-popping appearance also marked the first time he met many of the fronters.
Flat Albert then took on DJ duties and spun some of his favorite tunes...
and joined in on the dancing:

Al and Paul making a sizzlin' double decker sandwich

Tired after a long night of partying, Al found a warm place to crash:

Let's see...Bon Jovi: rocker mullet, ass-tight jeans, and tank top. Flat Al: crazy hair, plaid pants, and cardigan.

Winner- Flat Albert

The next morning, an excited Flat Al woke up the fronters, eager to start their fun-filled day.The fronters enjoyed a lazy morning lounging and eating cinnamon buns, and introduced Flat Al to the theory "U + Me = Us" by the boy band 2ge+her. Al found it quite profound and resolved to look into it more. Albert stayed in that afternoon to further research this new Grand Unification Theory while the fronters took a tubing trip down the river:

The fronters floated aimlessly for a few hours, but escaped the water just as the sunny skies gave way to a flash thunderstorm. They washed up and spent a night on the town, dining on fusion cuisine (Flat Albert's favorite) of Korean and Tex Mex at the Blue Cactus.

The angsty teenager who took this photo was no Einstein at picture taking.

After dinner Flat Albert welcomed the fronters back and everyone enjoyed a night of singing, laughter, choreographed dancing, and banana phones. The merriment lasted through the night.