Japan, June 2013

Japan: weird, polite to a fault, and bubble gum. I hate to be one of those people who say “you don’t know it until you experience it,” but that’s exactly the case.

Always looking for an excuse to travel, Leah and I hit Tokyo, the Kiso Valley, and Osaka June 14th through 24th. It was Leah’s third time to Japan and my first. Needless to say, everything that was wild to me was no big deal to her.

Our itinerary looked like this (Leah did a great job blogging the first part of the week):

  • Friday: Depart Portland Friday afternoon, arrive Tokyo in the future.
  • Sunday: Explore Tokyo with Seiga and drink iced coffee from vending machines. Skytree was my favorite sight.
  • Monday: Check out the Tsukiji Fish Market, eat a bowl of ramen, then take Shinkansen to Nagoya and Kiso Valley to experience the ryokan.
  • Tuesday: Hike from Tsumago to Magome (16 km or so). More eating.
  • Wednesday: Take Shinkansen to Osaka, where we stayed with Leah’s friend Nathan for the rest of the trip. Indian food for dinner.
  • Thursday: Explore Kyoto. Experience a legit tea ceremony. Make nachos with homemade tortilla chips from homemade tortillas.
  • Friday: Hang out in Osaka part one. Running in the morning along the waterfront. Read in a coffee shop. Wander around all night with a friendly drunk guy.
  • Saturday: Hang out in Osaka part two. Recover from our hangovers. Attempt to buy souvenirs, but fail because neither Leah or I like shopping.
  • Sunday: Explore Nara. Fight deer. Hike to the top of a hill. Shinkansen back to Tokyo, and fly home.

Climbing South Sister

Summit!

After driving to Bend Friday night, Robin, Leah, Gordon and I woke up at 6 am to take our shot at climbing South Sister. I’ve done it a couple times before; it was girls’ first time, and Leah’s first attempt at a glaciated peak. Escaping the many mosquitos at Devil’s Lake by 7:15 am, we hiked up and up and up to summit just around 11:50 am. On the way back down, we managed a bit of hot glissading action (see video below images).

South Sister is a great introduction to mountaineering. It’s physically demanding and provides some amount of high mountain exposure, but technically tame (no crampons or ice axe needed). If you’re tempted to check it out, the conditions should be favorable through the end of September. Here’s a good route description.

Walking in the Lake District

‘Twas the best of times, ’twas the worst of times. We had beautiful weather, we got a flat tyre 300 miles from home.

On June 9th and 10th, I fulfilled a life-long dream of walking in the Lake District, originally inspired by Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. My friend DJ, who’s been doing good work at Cambridge this past year, invited me to join his walking club for a weekend in Northern England. We had a great feast Friday night at Trinity College, an unexpected delight, and woke up early Saturday morning to drive six hours.

Our destination was the hills around Ennerdale Water. Once we arrived, we quickly put on our hiking shoes and walked several kilometers up the valley to the Black Sail hikers lodge. The weather was reasonble, but an uncertain barometer for the next day (the Lake Distict is known for cold rain and howling wind).

Fortunately, we lucked out. Sunday started out nice and only got nicer. We walked up Steeple Peak to access jaw-dropping views towards the Isle of Man. What amazed me were the well-maintained stone fences threading up, down, and all around the hills. The area around wasn’t desolate but it certainly wasn’t well-populated.

After a wonderful day on the trail, we returned to an extremely, screw-through-the-treads flat tyre. That misery isn’t a story worth repeating.

Team VIP meetup in Miami

The nature of a distributed company is such that you rarely get to see your colleagues unless you make an explicit effort to do so. Team VIP is eight people in Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Milan, and Sofia, Bulgaria. Fortunately, working for Automattic means we get to meet up, socialize, have fun, and collaborate in person at least a couple times per year. This past week, we relaxed (somewhat) in South Beach, Miami.

Highlights from the week include:

  • Great conversations with everyone on the team. Our support workflow is really hitting its stride, and I think we have a much better sense now of where we want to take our internal tools.
  • Relaunching LIFE Magazine on WordPress.com Tuesday night at the steak house. When I pulled my laptop out at the dinner table, I thought the waiter was going to ask me to close it. Instead, he offered a wifi connection.
  • Figuring out how to “fix” rewrite rules for VIPs. Now, to finish and test the implementation…
  • Sunset boat ride through the Miami harbor. Ultimate chill out session.
  • Lots of great food: Cuban, steak, sushi. I took a semi-break from veganism and allowed myself to eat meat one meal a day.
  • Awesome daily runs along the South Beach boardwalk, with a seven miler on Thursday.

All photos, except for the group shot on the boat, were taken with my fancy new Canon S100.

Last weekend of October in Budapest

After the Automattic company meetup, Michelle came out to Budapest for a few days and we explored the city. Thursday evening, we had a wonderful, multi-course meal including escargot (my first time), Hungarian goulash, plum-stuffed duck, and a thirty year-old aperitif. Friday, Michelle and I walked around the city, went to the Terror House, and saw the opera with a philharmonic orchestra. On Saturday, we went back to an excellent nearby cafe for second rounds on a delicious breakfast, then checked out the castle up behind our hotel, and finished up by hitting the bathes.

Before I arrived, I heard Budapest described as “Little Paris.” Now we both know why.

Spain, first evening: Walk along the river and through old town Zamora

I wouldn’t mind spending half the year in Zamora, and the other half skiing in the Alps. Uneventful flight, but hacked Edit Flow for the majority of 12 hours in the air instead of sleeping. Exhaustion will hit soon.