As most people who know me know, I’m a pretty big fan of San Francisco. Even with its high rents, disfunctional mass transit system and even the fog that hangs around my neighborhood, i’m constantly reminded how different this city is, and how much amazing things seem to take place here.

Lately, what’s really stood out are the people you find here. It doesn’t matter if its for a startup you’re working on or a new art project or an awesome new food concept cart, SF seems to attract people from all over the world who are looking to create. And they don’t just limit themselves to just one thing, usually its multiple projects.

Several of my friends work a day job to fuel their artistic projects, or their startups, or their personal dreams. What’s amazing is not just you find so many of these people here, but how incredibly accessible

My largest work- Zocalo

My largest work- Zocalo

they are. Any given day you can walk into a bar and end up having a discussion with a lead engineer from Twitter- or Anthony Bourdain. SF denizens seem more than willing to talk to a complete stranger, even assisting them in their endeavors.

For new entrepreneurs, this ease of communication and accessability helps immensly- both in finding similiarly minded future teammates or discovering funding or an advisor- leads to a much quicker product launch, and larger chance for the startup to be succesful. You just can’t do that anywhere in the world.

This truly is a city of thinkers, tinkers and dreamers- but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As Oscar Wilde said about San Francisco “It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world”

I couldn’t agree more :)



The belgians-the team I joined for Dakar

The belgians-the team I joined for Dakar

I was going to try and do this Travelogue in sequential order- which means this chapter *should* be  Buenos Aires- but screw it, i’m skipping to Mendoza because i’m still high off the incredible time I had there- and I still can’t believe what happened. Coming into town on an overnight bus from Buenos Aires, I had no idea what would be in store for me- and I had no idea that I would be in store- and DEFINITELY didn’t think that in just a few days, I’d be getting drinks with some of the Dakar Race’s top racers and pit teams.

For those of you who don’t know, the Dakar race happens yearly and typically starts in Paris and does a crazy offroad cannonball run all the way to Dakar Ethiopia. Its one of the most challenging sporting events every conceived with cars, trucks and bikes travelling thousands of miles over everything from tranquil roads to mudfilled swamps to sand dunes- all while avoiding everything from flat tires to gun-toting thieves and land mines. All the while, each team has a support staff of trucks keeping up with each racer, ensuring that they stay in the game.  Every year its taken place until last year, when Al Queda officially threatened the race and it was cancelled- only to have the race moved to South America, where it is actually much more difficult. Raiders aren’t an issue, but an entirely new course and several new microclimates (like mountain tundra) make this course even more difficult than the African one. According to Wikipedia, the dakar race is officially the deadliest professional sport played- with roughly 5-10 deaths and countless other injuries happening each year. After seeing the course video and seeing how these machines end up i the pits, I can totally see why.

One of the American Support Trucks

One of the American Support Trucks

In order for a vehicle to be able to handle this- it has to be customized to handle the rugged conditions- which usually involves taking a normal chassis of a SUV or motorcycle and replacing every part with a hand made piece that can handle the stresses and harsh conditions of the race.

I extended my stay in Mendoza to see the contestants come into the city and hopefully get a closer look at the racers. I had no idea what would happen.

A friend I met at my hostel- a hilarious Belgian named Rudy- and I went to check out the location where all the racers were converging to end the Mendoza leg of the race. All the support teams and cars were fenced off and protected by the Argentian army- and they were’nt letting anyone in. The best pictures we could get were just through the holes in the fence- which was still cool.

As you can see in these pictures, the support trucks are huge! Each with enough parts to build several cars. All of these trucks take typical roads to leapfrog the teams they support- so they’ll be ready to fix and repair the damaged cars once they make the checkpoint.

On the outside looking into the event

On the outside looking into the event

As Rudy and i were walking up to the entrance, he sees the Belgian team coming to a stop nearby. He waits for the support team to get out of their large support truck and he starts yelling at them in Flemish. They hear and come on over and chat with us for the enxt few minutes- then invite us into the pit area of the entire race! With a brief checkout by the argentinian army and we were let into the highest security area I’ve been in since I worked at Nasa.

The Belgian were incredibly friendly- and hooked us up with red bulls and drinks, and let us check out everything- their cars, the suport truck- and even gave us free team shirts and hats.

What looked like a stock toyota SUV on the outside was an insane custom made- mad max style race on the inside. rollcages, fixed seats and more were inside. Check the pictures out in the gallery for more.

I learned that they were one of two cars on the other team- their other car was lost somewhere in the desert and at the time I left, they still hadn’t been found. The day before, a member of a French team died of complications from a crash, and several other motorcylcists were critically injured in accidents. The frequency that these guys were talking about people getting maimed/broken/killed was insane. Its like these guys just shrugged it off.

After chatting with the team a bit more, Rudy and I wandered around and met some of the other teams- each with very different levels of technical support and funding.  Clearly, the Dakar race is expensive- straight up. Just to enter costs a racer 12000 dollars- not including the support team, the truck (which also needs to be custome-made- at roughly the cost of 750k), then the support team on top of that, and all the purchase of spare parts. Most of the teams I saw were funded at roughly 6million dollars each.

The redbull trucks getting serviced

The redbull trucks getting serviced

After a racer would pull in, his support team would immediately begin working on the car. WIth checklists in hand, they’d begin to take the car apart and first blow out all the dust with high power water and air gunes. Then they would disassemble parts of the engine and begin working on replacing any damaged pieces. After talking to a few pit crews, they apparently get only 2-3 hours of sleep a night- and frequently go several days without sleeping. Fortunately, Red Bull sponsors free redbulls for everyone, so there is something to keep you going.

The motorcycles were crazy- each with larger than average wheels and huge radiators (Which all seemed to collect more dust than the entirety of ocean beach). These bikers are also the most likely to die, getin accidents, or just drop out. Out of 200 motoryclists each year, roughly only 50 make it to the finish line.

Me and Jonas Street-US team

Me and Jonas Street-US team

One of the interesting things that no one seems to mention is the amount of women racers in the event. So much press is given to Danica Patrick here in the states when there are 50 women racing in dakar- some of them olympians. There was a swedish racer I met who was competing on a motorcycle who was unfortunately disqualified. She crashed and broke her ribs and was out 12 hours-disqualifying her from the race. She got a brace and was still following the other teams as they continued- insane!

I found the American team and got the lowdown on some more support details. The Americans are sponsored by Chevrolet and are running highly modified hummers. They have every piece of equipment on the cars sensored- and have a truck full of servers and other gear to detemine how the racers can improve their performance, and how they can tweek the cars to get that extra edge out as well. Most of the pit crew has worked other off road/motocross events before, and bring that experience to play.

A redbull support truck

A redbull support truck

After just a few minutes, i’d met most of the team- and even the racers parents too. crazy. I got a chance to also meet Jonas Street- who had won the past two sections. Kicking around for the next few hours I got a chance to glimpse more and meet so many characters around the race it made my head spin.

Coming from a background where i’m not a huge nascar/formula/streetracing fan- I was beyond pysched to see this race first hand. Everything from the racers themselves to the incredibly technical support teams was incredibly impressive. And the fact that everything was totally mobile, and seeing what they had literally gone through to be where they were was incredible. All in all, one of the best days i’ve had on the trip-and there’s still so much more to come!

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings :) Until then, stay tuned!

This is the only map the contestants get

This is the only map the contestants get


With a week and half behind me and roughly two weeks to go, there’s still so much to see on the trip, but I’ve got to start somewhere, and where best but Brazil!ipanema-dawn

I landed two days after Christmas and it was raining- who knew that Rio in the middle of their summer would be so rainy? But fortunately for me, the rain was shortlived and the wonders of rio quickly showed themselves.

I’d had all sorts of images of what rio could be, or not be, and more or less they were all a bit off.

First off, its definitely tropical- hot and humid. Second, i thought it would be a vast megalopolis- but instead, i was met with a densely populated city with large veins of jungle interspersed (along with the infamous favellas as well).

The moment i set foot on brazilian soil, I was taken by how welcome, friendly- and well, pysched on life everyone was. Seriously- its like these people are on red bull 24/7 (without the crash). It didn’t matter if I was asking people about food or what way to best get to the bustop- people were more than happy to help.

Speaking of which, the food was _awesome_. Everything from the street sandwiches to the fancier Brazilian food was awesome. They definitely take a page from the meat-a-tarian cookbook and bring it up a few notches. The quality of the meat and chicken was insane. Pretty much all they do is just hit it with salt, pepper and olive oil and voila! crazy tasty food. That and black beans and rice- lots o carbs, which of course, I love! Oh and the portion sizes make the outback steakhouse main entrees look like diet appetizers.

Which is kind of weird, because i don’t think i’ve ever been anywhere where people look so RIPPED. Seriously, everyone has either a sixpack or some sports illustrated swimsuit body- with much skimpier suits- which isn’t always a good thing- there apparently isn’t a weight limit on speedos  :( Also funny is that you can find Protein Powder for musclebuilding as an option at all fruit drink stands- hows that for a juice boost?

The partying it goes without saying is pretty crazy. Things don’t get hopping at clubs till at least midnight, and don’t end till like 5. It doesn’t matter if you’re in lapa (the mission district of Rio) or the tonier places in Ipanema- people straight party. Watching a live samba band though is a true pleasure watching people move and get down- its awesome!eagle

New years was even more crazy- with over 2 million people mingling on Copacabana beach with fireworks and small fiery shrines to local deities- all combined with healthy amounts of Capirinhas and dancing- a dangerous mix.

All said and done an awesome city- both for eating, tanning, and some sightseeing (sugar loaf was a must see). I don’t know if i’d spend an entire week there again, but it was an awesome place to check out. Now for the next leg of the trip-Argentina!


Its been a while since I blogged and its time to get back in the swing of things- do I sense a new years resolution coming on?

Rio di janaeiro

Well I’m back on the road and looking forward to quite a trip! Traveling through Brazil, and then Uruguay and Argentina. Its crazy to think its been a year since my last trip, and i’m looking forward to seeing where this one takes me.

South America has been one of my favorite places to travel. The sheer size of it- and how wild and relatively unpoluted it is (compared to asia or parts of eastern europe/Africa.

Its crazy how traveling to some foreign land can give you new perspectives on things. Removed from all the stress, craziness, expectations and work back in the bay area- traveling gives me a chance to pause and reflect. Especially with so much coming up.

The new year, turning 30, both family and friends and how we relate is changing- everything truly is changing (as it always does), it just seems that now, more than ever, that’s true. I’m wondering where this year is going to take me and what I should focus on.

And from there…we’ll see. Until then, we’ll see where the road takes me. Until then friends…. :)

p.s. if you have any good recommendations for places to go in Brazil, Buenos Aires of Mendoza, i’d love to have em! :)


A night in

07Oct08
Tasty, tasty soup!

Tasty, tasty soup!

Its been way, way waaaaaaay too long since my last blog, and just like cleaning your room, if you don’t do it in a while- thing start piling up. There’s so much to catch up on.

After spending an incredible and much-needed week at burning man, i’ve been slammed with work, and a crazy amount of things going on in my non-work life. With all the business, the market crashing and any number of distractions- i’ve turned to…well…food (I know, not too big of a surprise).

Its not just eating food for me- its making it, crafting it and getting to enjoy it. Isn’t cooking after all art? And one that you can fully enjoy, share and indulge in. What’s not to love (minus a few pounds here and there).

Ever since, i’ve been working in my kitchen lab, whipping up all sorts of new recipes. Soups? Check. Entrees? check- desert- i’ll take 2. All these new recipes, and new gear, is giving me a chance to branch out and explore a bit more. While I may never be a top chef, i’m happy to cook whenever I can.  I’ll start posting some of my “best of the best” recipies shortly after I sit down and get to it(please harass me, if I’m late)

until then, here are some pics and links :


Sunrise over the playa

With just a few weeks left before burning man, and I seriously can’t wait. Not that this is too much of a surprise for those that get the (mis)fortune of seeing me on a regular basis. Like apparently half of san francisco (seriously, the mission feels like a ghostown)- i’ll be heading to the black rock desert in Nevada for a week of incredible art and adventure.

For those who aren’t aware of burning man, its an arts festival in the middle of an ancient lake bed. For an entire week, people contstruct some of the most amazing art, exhibits, meals and illusions i’ve ever seen. Explaining it is a bit tough to bring in words since there’s nothing else like it i’ve ever seen. Its not as easy though as just pulling up to your average art and wine festival, it is in the middle of the desert and the weather can get extreme. Blaring heat in the day and cold at the night, dustorms  occur from time to time and whiteouts aren’t uncommon. that combined with the dust the gets _everywhere_ (and everyplace you probably don’t want it).

This is combined with the fact you have to pack _everything_ you need for the week- food, water, clothing, costumes (a key part of the party). This and just getting everything packed into your car for the treck can be daunting enough. but its all worth it when you get there.

When you travel, there are incredible natural sights to see- the Andes, Niagara Falls, Yosemite- and burning man is one of the most amazing displays of human made beauty i’ve seen. Incredibly ornate temples to super awesome art cars to a ice cream stand in the middle of the desert. Its almost like a place that feels on the edge of some kinda weird dream.

Nights on the playa for me are the most intense- with huge flame shooting art pieces illuminating the night sky, and hundreds of art cars rolling across the desert slowly. Some of the larger ones being converted buses with huge sound system, laser lights and entire bars inside. The cool thing about this is these are basically mobile parties- and people are more than happy to let you hop on board for any lenght of time. Oh, and since there is no money exchanged at burning man- everything is a “gift” economy (meaning you expect no payment but give freely) all the bars are open bars. There are even some theme camps that go as far as to fly in fresh sushi and server it to everyone for free. Truly awesome.

Of course, its not for everyone- being out in the desert without any normal facilities can be tough, as is the crazy playa dust- and all the loud music and craziness going on 24/7. But if you’re looking for one of the most unique and incredible sights and experiences you will see- you should go.

If you are there- you can find me at the Bat Country camp at 9:30 and esplanade. And i’m also helping the Dreamyourtopia crew on a massive art project they’re doing. I’ll see you on the playa!


Beer! Part 1

14Jul08
its whats for dinner
Hmm..Wonder which one i’ll choose

Food is one of my favorite things on the planet. If i’m having the roughest day imaginable to the most awesome day believable- there’s usually one thing on my mind- food. And what goes with food? Drinks (duh)- and one of my absolutel favorites is beer.

And i’ll be honest- I”m pretty spoiled here in SF when it comes to beers. When your average dive bar serves both PBR and Chimay- you’re not doing too bad. Throw in a good happy hour price, and its heaven in a pint. So lets review some of my fav’s.

Hoegaarden

This “white beer” is a perfect combination-   a lighter pilsner combined with a smooth wheat beer. Like Brangelina’s spawn, the two source products are perfect enough, the kids are gonna be good. Well, maybe not, but the story behind the beer is pretty awesome. A milkman, pissed that his favorite brewery closed, started cloning the beer in a hay loft- that’s some commitment.

Chimay

A strong Belgian ale, its got the most complex beer flavor i’ve had (blue or red label versions). The red has a nuttier taste to it, and the blue is unfiltered, and slightly more full bodied. The alcohol content is also higher too. These two beers definately stand out as some of the best i’ve ever had- which isn’t surprising, since they’re brewed by Trappist monks who go the extra distance. Yes, its one thing to dedicate yourself to prayer and the church, give up sex and live a quiet life. Its another thing to do all the above, and take a vow of silence- and then brew some awesome beer- so you know that energy is invested where it counts- and we benefit from it!

Lindeman’s Framboise

Probably one of the most interesting, and weirdly addicting beers i’ve had. This Frambois has the body of a beer, but the sweet taste of a white/rose wine- kind of. They literally add a ton of rasberries into the fermentation process, so not only does the beer taste good- its got your essetial vitamins too (i’m counting each glass as two fruit servings ;) )  Its a bit tough to find (sometimes Trader Joes has it, and BevMo too)- but if you see it, BUY IT. If you don’t like it, send the bottle to me ;)




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