Disneyland…The Most Commercialized Place On Earth?

The Holiday Season. A time for family, merriment and bringing out your inner child. All three came together this past Christmas as Jie and I drove down to LA to spend a long weekend with my family, meeting my baby nephew, Max, for the first time.

We also had a roller coaster ride of an experience at Disneyland that, for me, shined a very different light on the Happiest Place on Earth. Read more of this post


Davis Labor Day Trip

Over Labor Day weekend, Jie and I had the pleasure of heading up to Davis with our friend Alan and his buddy John, two Davis natives, who were able to give us the inside scoop on this college town less than two hours from San Francisco.

The trip began auspiciously with a stopover in Fairfield to visit the Jelly Belly Factory. For a jelly bean lover like me, this free factory tour is worth it for all of the free samples that we had at the end. Yes, I overdid it, but when else will I get the chance to sample such diverse flavors as tabasco, draft beer and vomit (yes, they have a line of Harry-Potter inspired disgusting flavors that actually taste disgusting)?

The tour itself was schmaltzy, and the tributes across the factory to Ronald Reagan were a bit puzzling, but this was a cool off-beat tourist activity. If you have kids I would definitely recommend it.

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Hearst Castle Road Trip

Jie and I recently decided to take a pre-wedding weekend road trip so that she could visit Hearst Castle for the first time. Not only would we get the chance to see a national landmark (famed home of early 20th century newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst) but it would also give us the chance to do another scenic drive along Highway 1.

I purchased tickets for a Hearst Castle tour late Saturday morning, which I thought would give us the chance to drive down Friday night and sleep in the next morning.

In retrospect, I should have looked at accommodation first because when I searched for hotels and B&Bs in the area, I was floored. Hotels/motels in nearby San Simeon and Cambria started at nearly $200/night for place with poor reviews on TripAdvisor. Anything decent was either snatched up or $350+/night. Even expanding my search to a broader area along the coast and inland towards Paso Robles yielded nothing of promise.

All B&Bs along the coast require a minimum of two nights stay during the summer weekends. Of the dozen or so that I called, hoping for a break on the minimum stay, all were fully booked for the weekend. Read more of this post

Half Moon Bay Sunset

To kick off the Memorial Day weekend, Jie and I took the short drive west to Half Moon Bay, where we took in a magnificent sunset.

Below are a few pictures:

Juxtaposition of cliff, beach and ocean

Juxtaposition of cliff, beach and ocean

Standing on a cliff overlooking the beach and ocean

Standing on a cliff overlooking the beach and ocean


Jie about to enjoy the view from a bench overlooking the ocean

Jie about to enjoy the view from a bench overlooking the ocean


Looking out on the Pacific from Half Moon Bay

Looking out on the Pacific from Half Moon Bay

Tough Mudder: NorCal

Jie and I just completed our first Tough Mudder in Diablo Grande, about 90 minutes east of where we live. This completed one of my six goals from this blog's re-launch back in November. So, to commemorate our achievement, I want to give a blow-by-blow on the event, good and bad. Unfortunately, we did not bring a camera and haven't been able to track down pictures that Tough Mudder took.

Tough Mudder is a company that hosts 10-12 mile adventure course events in the US, Europe and Australia/New Zealand. The company bills its events as hard core endurance challenges with innovative obstacles designed by British Special Forces. They are also known for being a marketing powerhouse, intent on bringing these type of adventure races to a broad audience base, who find them more appealing than other endurance events like marathons.

Their events are also promoted as an exercise in teamwork and camaraderie. They are not races because nobody wins and your time isn't tracked. They encourage you to form groups to participate with. In that vein, Jie and I did Tough Mudder with my colleague, Laura, who jumped at the chance to join our Turtle Power team (slow and steady wins the race). On race day, most people were in teams and solo participants were easily able to join up with teams at every obstacle.

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My Trip to the DMV

This day had to come, eventually. My New York driver's license will expire at the end of April, I could either renew it or get a California license. So I crunched the numbers (i.e., compared the cost of each option) and decided to go with the latter option, even though that meant a trip to the DMV, where I would need to pass a 36 question written exam.

Luckily, I started thinking about this early because when I called the DMV, the first appointment available wasn't for five weeks. Within the past week, as my appointment approached, I started to think, hey maybe I should see if I can get a look at some sample questions for this driving test.

I went to the DMV website, took a few practice questions, and realized that I was in trouble. These questions were harder than I thought. Without studying there would be no way that I could pass. Read more of this post

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