It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert



Munich and Zurich

Two friends of ours, Michael and Yutong, contacted us a few weeks ago saying they had last minute business trips to Europe. One was gong to be in Munich on the weekend, and the other was going to be in Zurich at the start of the week. We had a late Friday flight planned for getting to Munich, but I was an idiot and forgot to take my passport with me. I had to go back to the house and missed the flight. I grabbed one the next morning and met them in Munich for lunch. It is nice that it is so easy to get around, and missing the flight wasn’t a huge deal. We had a great walk around the English Garden and saw the standing wave in the canal. It was the kind of thing that I think should happen in more places. We got to see a ton of little chicks of all sorts of birds, some of them we didn’t even know what they were. We drank at the Hofbrauhaus, and saw the Nymphenburg Palace. The gardens at the palace were amazing, and we especially liked the grotto and carriage collection.

Steph and I said bye to Michael, and hopped on the train to Zurich. We didn’t have nearly as much time in Zurich, but had the Lindt chocolate factory tour booked. We got in a little late, and had a great lunch with Yutong. It was so great to see her. I love how infectiously happy she can be. The chocolate factory tour was great, especially with all the included chocolate. They had three chocolate fountains, eight machines chopping up chocolate bars, eight different types of chocolate truffles, and two places to get chocolate squares. It was a truly decadent experience, and we all left on an incredible sugar high. I was shaking slightly from all the sugar. We chilled at the park for a bit before heading to an amazing Syrian dinner that Yutong suggested.

We said our goodbyes and trained back to the airport, and got back to the kitties around midnight. It was such a great weekend, especially because we got to see Michael and Yutong.

Amsterdam (and London Week 19)

Little happened of note on Week 19, other than it being a short week due to Easter. Steph and I took the long weekend in Amsterdam. We had planned in advance to see two of the major attractions of Amsterdam, the limited time Vermeer exhibit, and the tulip festival.

Steph managed to get tickets to the Vermeer exhibit at the right times, as she was ready when the ticket sales opened. We had an evening ticket for Saturday on Easter weekend, which was perfect. I set up for us to go to Keukenhof on Easter, and we managed to get a small group tour that was biking through the flower fields on the way to Keukenhof.

We arrived in Amsterdam pretty late on Friday, with about a 30 minute walk through the center of the city to our hotel, near the museums. We got in and then headed out for the evening through the red light district and the main squares, just to see the city. The red light district especially was stupidly overcrowded, so much so that the entire street was taken up with pedestrians and it was one way walking traffic. We got out of there quickly, as neither of us like crowds. We found a lovely hotel bar that was cozy and had good drinks and relaxed there while talking over the rest of the trip.

The next morning we went to the National Maritime Museum, which had a number of great exhibits. The main exhibit was the Amsterdam, a ship replica of an old merchant vessel. They also had sections on navigational equipment, ship decorations, tapestries, ship models, and maps. We especially like the section on maps, and how the European understanding of what the world looked like slowly changed with the passage of time. They focussed on the shapes of different countries over the different iterations of maps. Japan’s shape was especially strange to start with, and nothing like what it actually is.

We walked the city for the afternoon, as the normal entry to the Rijksmuseum was sold out. We had tickets that gave us entry to the special exhibit for Vermeer, and then afterwards we could go around the rest of the museum. That particular detail of it being only after wasn’t on the ticket, but in a FAQ on the website. Our entry to the Vermeer exhibit was after the main museum had closed, and there were lots of guides ensuring that nobody from the special exhibit wandered from the prescribed section.

The Vermeer exhibit itself had most of his known paintings. It was amazing to compare his work over his lifetime, and see the props and rooms he painted several times. The details were exquisite and seeing them in person showed the layering and details in a clearer light than can be captured in a photo. We had missed the ‘girl with the pearl earring’ by a week, but the rest was still fantastic. Afterwards we got some great Eritrean food and called it a night.

Easter Sunday was another morning of wandering around Amsterdam. We went to a rubber ducky store where Steph found a tech diving rubber ducky, although it uses back mounted doubles instead of side mount. I insisted she get it. We also grabbed some freits at a small chip shop.

We headed to the train station where we met up with Hans for an amazing tour of the flower fields on bike, then a jaunt around Keukenhof. The bike ride was amazing, and the weather was pretty much perfect for it. Hans said that the tulips had started blooming only a few days earlier, and there were fields of orange and red tulips. It was a surreal sight. They also had many daffodils, from almost a orange gold color to a pale yellow. My favorite were fields of hyacinths in deep blue, purples, pinks, and whites, which smelled amazing.

The Keukenhof was full of flower beds that were arranged in all sorts of layouts. The place was a huge garden, with many different types of flowers mixed in all sorts of interesting arrangements. It was clear they took the timing of the blooms into account and layered them so that each bed had something interesting no matter the week. It was one of the most magical places I’ve been.

We had a lovely sunset bike ride back to the station and Hans herded our group back onto the train and back. I had a great time and would highly recommend the tour.

We took it easy that evening and just had a drink at a bar around the corner from our hotel before going to sleep. The trip back was uneventful, but I couldn’t help but notice the times involved. In theory it is about a 3.5 hour train ride, but the timing for the flight is 5 hours from the same Amsterdam Central station all told. We’ll have to tally up the costs, but even if the train is more expensive it might be worth it for the additional convenience of not switching transport, and time.

Kanab in June

A group got together to visit Adam in the end of June and start of July. We now felt fine to fly so we flew with Riley and Rong to Vegas, then got a car and drove to Kanab. Tina and Amit had driven there, and we met up with Tim and Hannah that evening as well.

We went to the dunes the first day and had a great time. We were able to rent a board that was similar to a snowboard to surf the dunes. We each were able to get up and ride the dunes a few times. Tim was probably doing the best of everyone by making it the furthest down the dune and standing up all the way.

I stayed in the next two days as the hikes didn’t interest me and I had a little work to do. I didn’t really regret missing the walk through town or the north rim of the Grand Canyon hikes. I had a nice relaxed time at the house.

Steph organized a group to go to one of the local tourist traps, Moqui Cave. It was better than I expected, but still not great. The Belly of the Dragon cave was aa better spot and very interesting formation.

Keeping with the cave theme Steph found a lava tube that could be traversed over about 100ft. It was a tight squeeze but fun to go through. The other tourists were annoying in that the kids didn’t wait to go through the squeeze, and some of the teens were getting into the gated off section of the cave. The national forest and the national monument near the cave were also very pretty. We were at about 10,000 ft so even the light walks were making us winded.

We played tons of games while there. We played lots of Mars, the card game and board game. We also played Wingspan a few times, as well as one game of Mage Knight that we loss spectacularly. Tina brought her switch and we played Overcooked and Just Dance on that. The Just Dance was especially fun because we were all so bad at it.

On the way back Riley, Rong, Steph, and I went ATVing in the desert outside Vegas. It was interesting, especially when a giant dirt devil went through the path we were taking.

Scuba by the Monterey Pier

Steph and I took a short drive down to Monterey to do a scuba trip there. The Pier is a fun place to dive as you never know what you’ll find and this time was especially interesting. We saw a crab wearing a beanie hat. The crab was a Sheep Crab or Spider Crab depending on how you want to call it. The hat was decently stuck to it, and it was happy with the hat. The video below is from one of the other groups that was there that day, and we got a screenshot in case the video goes down (like what happened with the urchin smashing).

Vegas Weekend

Steph and I joined a large group for their yearly Vegas trip.  This is the third time I’ve joined this group in Vegas, and I think it was my favorite trip.  Steph and I flew out Friday afternoon and got to Vegas in the early evening.

Steph had booked a couples massage for us at the Korean spa that Debby likes.  I had a really good massage with intense pressure.  Steph said she didn’t get as deep a massage as she would have liked, but overall the spa was nice.

We met up with much of the rest of the group at a Cornish pasty shop.  They were just finishing up so we had dinner as just the two of us.  The veggie pasties were very good.  We then joined them at the Velveteen Rabbit, which was a cute bar.  They started turning up the music so we decided to leave.  We went to a nearby beer focussed bar, and Steph and I decided to head to the hotel for some sleep.

Saturday morning I met up with, Myk, a colleague and we had breakfast at Bruxies, then walked the strip for a bit.

I then joined Steph and we went to the Shark Reef aquarium with Paul and Yutong. It was much better than expected, but our expectations were pretty low.  They had a large variety of sharks, and a small variety of other things.

Saturday evening Steph and I went to the Zumanity show.  It was an enjoyable performance, although not as good as any of the other Cirque shows I’ve seen.  It was the perfect show for Valentines weekend I would say.

Sunday morning we went to Dig This.  Steph and I got to crush a car using one of the large excavators.  Then we got to play with the small excavators and dig a hole.  They were fun to use and the power of the machines was impressive.

After Dig This we went to do two escape rooms at Escapology, Mansion Murder and Under Pressure.  We got stalled at a few of the puzzles, but overcame that decently quickly.  We escaped each room with about 20 minutes to spare.

Our flight was delayed so we had a bit of time to go to dinner with Adam and Tina.  The food at the place we chose wasn’t great.  They specialized in steak, so I guess that was good, but their veggie dishes left something to be desired.  We got to the airport a little early, but the plane boarded before the delay suggested so that was a good thing.  We got home to find the kitties timed feeders hadn’t worked, so they were so hungry.  I felt bad for the kitties, so we gave them lots of attention and food.

Tennis with Ricardo

Ricardo came to Redwood City for tennis this Sunday.  We headed to the nearby court and found it empty.  It was cloudy at first, so no major advantage based on sun.  Unfortunately the sun came out as we were switching sides.  This made it a little harder to play, but I still got him on both sets we played.  We were noticeably better this time, with fewer double faults, better ball placement, and better hits.  I think Ricardo has the better ball placement, but I have him beat on energy and speed.  We are still decently matched at this point.

Afterwards we tried to go to Broadway Masala, but they weren’t open yet, so we dropped by Crouching Tiger and I introduced him to the magic chili tofu and ma po tofu.  They were both amazingly delicious.

New Years Backpacking

Adam organized a backpacking trip over new years to Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park. Tina wasn’t sure about the difficulty and Steph didn’t have the PTO so it was just Adam and myself.

I started by walking to Caltrain, and taking that to San Jose where the Amtrak also stops. I got there about 45 minutes early to find Adam there as well. The train was running about 45 minutes behind so we had a good bit of time to kill.

When the train got in we headed to the back car on the top level where our seats were assigned. We ate a late lunch from our stores and then got a seat in the observation car. The landscape was gorgeous and we got to see a great sunset. We played a few card games in the observation car until they closed it down. We made it to LA but not Union station, someone had been hot by the train in front of us so we were stopped. The train sat at Van Nuys for 30 minutes with no estimate for when we would get moving again. Once the initial surge for rideshare died down we grabbed a car to the apartment we were renting. I grabbed the couch and passed out.

We had breakfast nearby the next day before heading to Union Station. We grabbed the rental car and found out that the coastal starlight had made it into Union station at 1:30am the night before. We had left it for the rideshare at 9:20 and were at the apartment by 9:50.

We headed out of LA, passing a number of wind farms and made it to Joshua Tree around noon.

We stopped by the visitor center and got the advice to do the planned loop the other way as the planned direction had us sleeping in mountain lion territory. We headed out along the California Riding and Hiking Trail until it started getting dark around 4:30pm. For the first third of the day we had small piles of snow and mush on the trail, but as we got higher the trail turned to ankle deep, then shin deep snow. We had another person’s footsteps to follow so we couldn’t get lost. At close to dark we headed up a small gully to find a spot to camp. We packed down the snow and set up the tents. It was getting a lot colder than we had budgeted for so we got into the tents as quickly as possible. It was a miserably cold 16 hours until sunlight in the morning, but 16 hours of half good rest almost makes for a full night of rest. Thankfully our water didn’t freeze alp the way and we were able to hike to the nearby service road to continue. We had to forge our own way through the snow for about a half mile, which got tiring. We did spot a great story written in the snow of a bobcat chasing a rabbit. I’m pretty sure the rabbit was able to hide in a bush and got away.

We went up the road for some much needed easy hiking before reaching the trail to Eureka Peak. We went up to the peak and got a lovely view.

We headed down the other side and got right back into some shin deep snow. We went down a solid white Black Rock Canyon Trail, which eventually lightened up to ankle deep snow with some tracks to follow. We made it back to the trailhead and relaxed a bit at the visitor center. The hike was about 11.5 miles, at least 8 of which were through snow.

We filled up on water and went into town for a texmex lunch. Afterwards we stopped by the grocery store for frozen dinner and breakfast as the next hotel had a small kitchen. It turned out that the hotel was an RV, and surprisingly nice. They also had a hot spring that we took good advantage of.

We got a good night’s rest and struck out for Death Valley the following morning. A short stop at the visitor center and we headed into the wilderness along a poorly maintained “road.” After a few miles of really rough driving we pulled the car over and started the hike. The first seven or so miles were along the “road.” Then we got to the actual trail. At first it was easy to follow as it went along a small streambed. We camped on a small plateau next to the streambed the first night, and got another 14 hours in the tent. This time it was much warmer if not wholly warm.

The next morning we continued down the rivulet. We passed the cottonwood spring and emerged into a large valley that was ruled by a herd of wild horses. They were right along the trail and didn’t like us getting near. The valley was wide open so we snuck around them. After a small mistep following horse paths instead of human paths we found a great lunch spot. We took a longer break before heading to the highest point along the trail. We made the summit in good time, then continued down the other side. We missed a turn, as did a number of people before us. We followed the tracks of someone into a hard to pass valley before deciding we needed to find the trail again. It was getting late so we hiked to a nearby mountain peak and camped for the night, this time only 12 hours.

In the morning the trail was close, and we scuttled down the slope to it. We made our way through the gorgeous Marble Canyon.

We got to the road and had about 4 miles left to the car. We dropped our packs there and decided to drive back for the rest. We got to the car and found the drive back to be more perilous than expected. I got out to grab the bags and Adam turned around. We stopped of for a somewhat civilizing lunch in Stovepipe Wells before heading to the Luxor.

We got into Vegas around 6pm and grabbed an easy dinner at the Public House. I had a pretty decent impossible burger. We relaxed for the evening and did a four seasons breakfast the next morning. After turning in the rental car we had an easy time at the airport before getting home.

Lick Observatory with George

George invited me to join him on a Lick Observatory event through Google.  I hadn’t been there before and was excited when we got there to learn that they are working on two of the most interesting problems in astronomy; exoplanets and supernovas.  The exoplanet work they are doing is amazing, as they are focusing on the spectral shift method.  They survey large amounts of the sky looking at stars and galaxies for long time series.  We got to look through two of the telescopes.  One looked at a binary star while another looked at a globular cluster.  I appreciate George taking me on such an interesting adventure.

Kayak SF Bay Trail – Part 7, Angel Island

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Adam and I met in SF at my office and then headed to dinner at Delarosa.  It was tasty food, but nothing special.  We headed back and got things sorted so Adam could take the kayaks to his hotel room near the pier.  I slept in the office on the futon, and it was a pretty good night’s sleep.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but when things fell over at 10:30pm it was a small earthquake.



The next morning we got up dark and early.  I walked my gear over to Adam’s hotel and we headed down to pier 1 1/2, where we had left off the previous trip.  We each had small issues with our Oru’s.  I had folded mine poorly the previous time and bent the front bulkhead.  Luckily it wasn’t a terribly important part as long as we kept to moderately calm waters.

We got in and had a bit of a run in with a tug pushing a barge that wanted to get into a dock we were near.  We got out of the way fast once a security boat came over and told us that’s what it wanted.  We were just trying to stay still and be predictable.  We left the SF coast shortly after that and made our way to Alcatraz.



It was neat to see Alcatraz from the water, and the whole way out we were at the 0 tidal flow time.  This made for some very smooth water.  Things started to pick up a bit more as we paddled from Alcatraz to Angel Island.  The current was clearly starting to flow into the bay, and as we rounded the last point on Angel Island some strong eddies caught us and we had to fight them to get to the shore.



Once on shore we scouted out our campsite, which was slightly up a cliff from the beach.  It was nicely sized and up the hill from there were the remnants of the Civil War base.  We dropped our stuff off at camp in the raccoon proof bins, then headed to the ferry port.  We grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe, and found out there would be a tour of the island happening in less than an hour.  We waited around for that and hopped on when it started.  The tour was interesting as we drove past the four military bases on the island: Civil War, WWI & WWII, Cold War, and Southeast Asia conflicts.  There was also the Chinese internment camp for the Chinese Exclusion Act.  Most things were close because it was a Tuesday so we didn’t get to go into any of the museums.



After getting back to the ferry area we hiked to the peak.  We saw a ton of deer, vultures, and views of the bay.  After the hike we ended back up at camp.  I communicated with work for a bit and Adam read.  I then walked around the Civil War base, and it strangely serene being there alone.  I watched the sunset and enjoyed the peace of the place.



Adam had gotten cold before I got back so he got in his tent and was hanging out in there.  I set up my sleeping bag on top of a table to keep it from getting dusty.  I slept under the stars that night and saw some amazing shooting stars and counted satellites.



We slept in a bit the next morning and headed out at the low tide point to avoid tidal flows.  As we rounded the point to head north we saw some of the rare bay porpoises.  I wasn’t able to get a picture as they came up and dove quickly.  We paddled up the western side of the bay from there.  Adam’s hip was hurting from being stationary and not having stretched before getting in the kayak, but he pushed onward until we passed San Quentin and the Richmond bridge.  We pulled out at the Gun and Rod club dock and got a ride back to the city so I could follow up with all the work things that had happened.

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