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It's an Exciting World

The life and times of David Geisert

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Zurich

Steph was working in Zurich for two weeks, so I visited her on the weekend between.

I had an early morning flight on Saturday so I got up at 4:30 and headed to the airport via Victoria station. There weren’t any major issues getting in so I met up with Steph at the train station in Zurich in the morning. I was in a desperate need of a coffee so we found a cafe before heading up the mountain nearby. We took the trolley up to the lookout point, and had a long walk through the park. There were some great views of the lake and Zurich. We walked through the park to the next trolley station and went back to twon for a nice lunch next to the lake.

At the lake we walked along the waterfront and saw some of the migratory birds that were just returning. They were great to watch as we sat by the lake and had a lovely lunch. We continued our walk to downtown Zurich, stopping at the opera house square. We also stopped by the cathedral, which had some pretty windows made with slices of geodes. We’d wanted to go to the Lindt factory, but hadn’t made reservations in time and they were sold out.

We relaxed a bit at the hotel before heading to dinner at one of the great fondu restaurants. It was delicious as expected, and we walked along the river a bit before heading back.

The next day we med up with Amy and Adelaide for coffee. They brought their young daughter Heloise, who was adorable. She was very active for most of the time until she passed out in the stroller.

Then we headed to the park north of the train station next to the museum. It was really nice and in full bloom. We wanted to take the glass top boat along the river and lake, so we went to the train station to get the right ticket. While there we walked around a food truck area that had some interesting international food. Some of it was interesting because of how vague it was, like the “Asian Food” stand.

We went along the river in the boat, then out onto the lake. The marathon was winding down, but it was still nice to see everyone along the lakeshore. We did the full round trip and it was really lovely.

We then wandered the alleyways some in search of some postcards, but eventually made it back to our hotel and decided to just relax until dinner time.

We went to a beer hall for dinner, and it was a great atmosphere. The food was mediocre, but the beer was delicious. That is what I would generally expect from a beer hall.

Monday I went in to the Zurich office, although I had to hang out at Starbucks for an hour before I could get the right permissions. It was pretty easy, and I went to have lunch with one of the teams I had worked with before. The office there was very small compared to the London offices.

Steph and I had dinner at a nice Vegan place before I hopped on the train for the airport. My flight was somewhat delayed, so I got back a little after midnight. The kitties were so happy to have me back and were amazingly cuddly.

Madeira

Friday morning we headed to the train to then head to the airport for a flight to Madeira. We went the long way around King’s Cross as we still haven’t figured out all the trains that leave from there, and we got on the wrong train. Luckily the train we actually wanted stopped at the same next stop, and we did a quick swap. At the airport we also went to the wrong terminal first, but then we made it to the correct terminal and waited in a lovely lounge area before the flight. Gatwick airport is our favorite airport so far, as we get direct trains and the waits there are decent. The flight was one hour delayed as well, but we made it just fine.

We got to Madeira, and were met at the airport with a ride into Funchal. The ride was gorgeous and the roads in Madeira are windy and have lots of bridges and tunnels due to the deep valleys all over the island. We got a great Airbnb in the middle of Funchal, and were able to walk all across the city. We had a great time of it. The first night we met Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth and Patty’s uncle Bobby and Aunt Katrina. Dinner was great, and it was great to talk with Jeff and Patty to hear their thoughts for the future and how it has been not working for a few months.

The next day Steph and I went to our dive excursion. The resort area was very pretty up on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. We went out on a small boat with one other buddy pair and did a quick dive along the marine preserve. Steph got to scratch the chin of a big grouper that was just chilling on the bottom. The guides know the two groupers in the area are very docile and they showed us what to do with them. I really enjoyed the large schools of tropical and subtropical fish. We were surprised that there were parrot fish on the island as it wasn’t a coral reef, but more of a rocky bottom.

We walked all along the ocean front of Funchal that day, as well. It was a great walk and a lovely town. Funchal is amazingly lush, and the streets are pretty. They have mixed cobblestones of white and black and make amazing designs in the streets. They also have footpaths made of oval pebbles that they lay in patters based on the longways of the pebbles. It shows an amazing attention to detail with something simple, and I really appreciated how lovely it made the island.

The island is a great mix of the things we like about Portugal, Vigo, and Hawaii. I’m not sure we could live on a small island, but Funchal has a lot of what we are looking for in a place to live.

Dinner was with Jeff, Patty, and Elizabeth in one of the random squares, and it was great food. The portions here are much larger than expected, and the food has been great.

We got through pretty much all of our food list:

  1. Pastel de nata, a staple of Portugues food.
  2. Honey cakes (we found tortoises but no honey cakes on their backs)
  3. Passion fruit pudding, a specialty of Madeira
  4. Scabardfish, a fish that is supposed to be the standard Madeira fare
  5. Tomato egg soup, a common food item
  6. Galic bread, a special Madeira bread specialty that is like a thick english muffin

The third day we headed up the gondolas to near the top of the mountain and got great views. We took a second cablecar to the botanical gardens, and spent most of the day walking around the expansive set of different styled gardens. I really liked the walls with flowering vines, and the ponds scattered around the gardens. The turtle pond was the most naturalistic, but I liked the frog pond the most, with its paths over the water. The more standard topiary and gridded European style gardens were also nice. They had a large arrangement of cacti as well, which was surprising. The gardens was halfway up the mountain, so it had some amazing viewpoints overlooking Funchal.

We took the gondolas back down and walked along the ocean some more before heading back to the Airbnb for some rest while it rained.

I had a great book club discussion of Man’s Search for Meaning. I really appreciate the people who are reading and discussing books with me. I appreciate the diverse opinions that each person brings and the thought they put behind their preparation for the discussions.

I was just in time to join Jeff, Patty, Elizabeth, and Steph for dinner. We had a great discussion and I hope to see them again soon.

The morning flight back was uneventful except for the most amazing rainbow over one of the deep valleys as we drove by on a high bridge. The rainbow persisted to the airport, but that view over the valley with the rainbow was phenomenal. I decided to get Steph’s attention to it instead of taking a picture, as she was looking out to sea at the time.

I would certainly go back to Madeira, although I’m not sure I would do that strictly for a dive trip. I would want to do some hiking around the mountains and coastlines, as well as spending more time in Funchal. Possibly go out on their old style galleon. It obviously has a propeller, but still looks cool.

London, Week 14

Sunday we had a fun day with Nancy, Punit, and Roel jamming on some AI projects. Punit was getting his puzzle game to use AI instead of specific intents on AWS. Nancy was making a short stylized video. Roel was doing 3D scans of the environment and trying to get it in an unlit state for importing into a virtual scene. Steph was finishing her manuscript for The Blue Fairy Book. I worked on a story telling AI that had a choose your own adventure style. I was able to get it mostly working, but the web version won’t load the images, and the stories aren’t always coherent. I’m still working on it and it is a lot of fun. Nancy and Punit also made lots of amazing food.

Tuesday Steph and I tried to go to the comedy night in the evening, but the bar was rented out for filming something. Instead we went to a mini golf course in the nearby shopping center, which was pretty nice. Steph was leading by 4 going into the final hole, but it had a -4 to +2 swing based on pure chance, as it was just a funnel with 4 entry points. I had a good time, and some of the holes were pretty visually stunning with their lighting.

Wednesday morning we went to the Wellcome Collection in Euston. It was two main exhibits. The first was a loosely tied set of pieces based on the theme Human, but it was a really loose theme. The ones that had some interesting science or direct political commentary were very interesting. There were also some that were harder to interpret, but still visually interesting. The other exhibit was on binocular photography. They had special viewers to look at images taken from slightly different angles to give the illusion of a 3D object. It was very well done, but had fewer images than I was hoping for. They also had a selection of some of the earliest binocular viewing devices, which were very interesting to see. We then went for a lunch in Coal Drop Yards. Steph got grilled cheese and I got the everything bagel at Morty & Bobs.

Thursday I stayed at work for a MTG draft, and had a good time playing. I had a loss, a draw, and a win. Friday morning we got ready and headed to Madeira.

London, Week 10 + 11

I was sick over the weekend, and Steph got sick from me during the week. We still were able to make it out a bit between me getting better and her getting sick. We did go on a nice walk to some art that is spread around King’s Cross. There was the Lethaby Gallery for student art on Granary Square and there is a corporate art gallery in King’s Place.

We went to Allegiance, the George Takei musical about Japanese internment camps in WWII. It was an interesting take on them, as some parts they glossed over, like the start of the internment camps and how they were created. They also embellished parts of it with more physical violence and military like camps than was actually reported in the histories Steph looked up. It is possible that happened, but the histories left it out. The ending was strange and rough, as the fight the characters had in their 20’s resolved by one dying of old age supposedly in their 60’s or 70’s. Steph waited after the show and got Takei’s autograph.

I got some bronchitis, but we had the extra antibiotics so I took a course of those and it helped a ton. I got better pretty quickly.

Saturday we went to Brixton and did some more climbing. We joined Nancy, Punit, and Roel at a small climbing gym there. We then went out to lunch and had some pretty good okonomiyaki.

Saturday and Sunday I got inspired to illustrate Alice in Wonderland using Lexica.art. I made over 3000 images with them and used 76 in the text. Here is one of my favorites.

Sunday Steph and I also went on a nice walk to and around Regents Park. We took a small detour out of the park to a cheese shop that had three of 2022’s cheese competition winners. They were good, but my tastes aren’t refined enough to appreciate the difference between those and the decent ones from Waitrose. I also decided to get all the tea biscuits, and they are all tasty.

Sunday evening we had a great bookclub discussion with Candice and Michelle on Cloud Cuckoo Land. It is such an interesting book with lots of great story. In addition to the story there is great narrative complexity with six main characters over four epochs. The parallels and differences made for great conversation, as did the ethical concepts.

We went climbing again this Monday with some people from work at the Castle Climb. I had a great time and we found out that we hadn’t even made it to the largest bouldering room. The other 5 bouldering rooms were small in comparison, but they weren’t small by any means. We joined Carla, Vytautas, and a friend of Carla, Diana. I found a few V3’s that were fun, but I wasn’t able to complete any of those. I did manage to get a good number of the V1-2 and one or two of the V2’s.

Tuesday I stayed at work and played a round of Commander MTG. I ended up playing one of David S’s powerful decks and won at the power table after a 2 hour game. It was fun, but challenging playing a deck where I hadn’t even read through all the cards (some of which were in Spanish and Japanese).

We had an issue with our house in CA later in the week, where a pipe connection broke for the guest toilet and flooded most of the house. It happened after the carpets had been removed and before the new floor was put in, so perfect timing on a bad situation. Steph has handled it all well with the property manager and contractors that were already working on the house. We don’t expect it to delay the construction almost at all.

Saturday we had a nice social day. A friend from work invited us to a mini golf outing, at a place called Swingers [insert inappropriate remark yourself]. The place was tucked away in the financial district and we were the first on the course in the morning. Steph did well, and won. She had the only hole in one, and also didn’t have as many holes where she had to pick up the ball on stroke limit. William and Mimi have been in London for a while (with a break in the middle back to the US). They had great pointers on interesting places to go. For lunch we went to one of the 10 oldest pubs in London, the Hoop and Grapes. It was a pub, and had lots of markings on the wall saying that the Great Fire of London stopped just before it reached the location where the pub now stands.

In the evening we got online for some games with Michelle and Michael. We played a game called The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. It was pretty good, and we had a few fails, but mostly we were able to win. We made it through the first 17 missions.

London, Week 8

We got back to the kitties after Florence and they were glad to see us. We got a lot of cuddles.

We tried to go out to a comedy club on Wednesday, but they ran out of spots. We got there before the hosts, and didn’t go to sign up until it was too late. I still had a great time chatting with Jon while out drinking. We also got to go to the King Charles 1st, which is the closest pub to our flat. The pub was fine, but not a place we would likely go back to.

Thursday we tried our first Waitrose cooking class. It was pretty fun, and they had a good mix of things to do. We made ramen, including making the pasta from scratch. It wasn’t very hard, we would just have to buy the right ingredients and mix it in the right proportions again.

Saturday we had a full day in South London. We started out heading to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which had great works, and I liked the way they laid out the art and information. They had a special gallery dedicated to an artist that was studying a specific Reuben’s in the adjacent gallery and it was interesting to see the way the artist interpreted it.

Second we grabbed lunch at a place that served Turkish fondu and shakshuka. We got the spicy version of fondu and it was delicious.

Third we went to the Horniman Museum and gardens. The exhibits were well done, but it was a little depressing to see taxidermy so old. Most of the colors had faded and some of the taxidermy was not well done. It was also full of screaming children, and the big stone building amplified the screams. I don’t know why, but children there screamed a lot more than at other museums we’d been to; maybe it was the taxidermy. We had a nice walk through the gardens, even though not much was showing signs of life.

Finally we headed to Ninth Life, which was an amazing bar. They had little scenes that you could peep into through spyholes, including one that was full of rubber duckies. They had lots of cat themed art, and the building facade was painted like a cat had clawed it, but with bright colors. There is a giant cat statue on a sign across the street, and they had pop art takes on the sign.

We were there for the Smoking Caterpillar game, which was fun, but not exactly our kind of experience. It had lots of immersive theater and escape room aspects, but the direct interactions with the characters wasn’t something we were as interested in. I wanted to figure out each puzzle, but since the room was full of people going at the puzzles, it wasn’t even close to possible. The ones we did work on were done decently well. I had a good time, and the bar itself was amazing. If the bar were near us I’d probably want to go back.

Florence

Steph and I took the tube to Victoria and the the Gatwick Express to Gatwick Wednesday evening. We caught the plane to Florence, which left on time, then a quick cab ride to downtown Florence by midnight. It was about six hours of travel total, with almost 2 hours at the airport in a pretty nice lounge. Our AirBnB in Florence was right by the Ponte Vecchio, on the city side of the river. The wifi was down at the AirBnB and the thick stone building blocked cell signal, so it was an interesting week. Especially since I was still working Thursday and Friday evenings.

Thursday morning we went to the Uffizi Gallery. It was huge and had so many amazing works by well known artists. Steph and I got really tired of all the baby Jesus, but the rest of it was really amazing. I especially enjoyed the ceilings in the main hallway on the top floor. They seemed to be a feature many people just glanced at as they walked by, but each panel was unique and referenced a lot of the art in the galleries. I had my meetings along the river next to the Ponte Vecchio, which was really nice.

Friday we had a full day. Early in the morning we climbed up the Duomo and got a view from the roof, as well as from high up inside the dome. It was amazing, and the most definite must do thing while in Florence. We then stopped by the Academy to see the David, and made our way across the Rive to the Pitti Palace. The Palace was just as large as the Uffizi, but the names weren’t quite as impressive. The art there would still have been the prize of any US museum. The tables were especially amazing with the intricate stone inlays. We took a walk through the gardens behind the palace as well, which were extensive and well kept. We found all sorts of mushrooms in the gardens, including lions mane, chanterelles, coral mushrooms, and turkey tails. That evening we went to one of the places we saw on the Stanley Tucci series on Italy for it’s wine window. The window was so cute, and we met some Australians there, who we might show around London if they come in Feb.

Saturday we left the city and went to the Tuscan countryside, specifically in the Chianti region. We were there for the truffle hunting with three adorable dogs, but there was so much more. Walking through the countryside during the truffle hunt was so nice, and then we had the wine and olive oil from the property as well. They make their own truffle oil, which we bought. During the walk we (the dogs) managed to find twenty or so decently sized black truffles, with one tiny white truffle. I was amazed at how well they did. The people that we walked around with were also amazing. We got to hear about the architecture from a professor who comes to Florence each year for several weeks to teach a class on architecture. So amazing, and we have a great list if we are to ever go back to Florence. We also chatted with a Canadian investment banker turned ice cream maker, and someone who works for the same company as me. They served us an amazing multi-course meal and let us shave as much of the truffle onto our food as we wanted. When we got back to the AirBnB I accidentally locked us out, and Steph spent the next hour messaging people to get us back in. I know I should never keep the keys for an automatically locking door, that is one of the reasons I installed keypad entry on our house in Redwood City. We still managed to have a nice dinner, then called it a little early.

Sunday we went on a wine tour of the Chianti region which was nice, although the truffle experience the previous day made it a little paler in comparison. We still had a great time, and some really good food and wine. The people were also self selecting for the alcohol instead of the truffles. We still got to see some really pretty estates.

Monday morning we got up at 4:30 to catch the plane back to the UK, and I made it to work by 9:30.

Prague

Steph and I gave the kitties lots of extra food and water, put out an extra litter box, and gave them lots of cuddles. We need to get the extra key fob to leave for a cat sitter, which has been a whole thing.

We caught the ThamesLink train to Luton Airport Parkway without too much issue. The ticket didn’t really say where the train could be caught, and we found it in St. Pancras after scouring the boards at King’s Cross. We hopped the bus to the airport and found out our plane was delayed 2.5 hours. That plus the lounge being closed made the wait a long and bothersome one. I would have just worked, but I didn’t bring the work computer or a headset, since we were travelling light.

We got to Prague with ultimately only 1.5 hours of delay, and Dave met us at the airport. We rode the bus, to get to the subway, then took the tram to the city center. His place is right across the way from our hotel, the Mosaic House. It is an interesting hotel with lots of art outside and in.

We walked through the old town going to a few Christmas markets. We got a mulled wine drink with a piece of fruit in the bottom that was pretty tasty, although I like the British mulled wine better. We walked by some of the historic areas including the church crypt that got shot up after a nazi assassination. We went around to find a decent bar and ended up at Propaganda. It was a small bar with a young rebellious feel, but quiet enough to have a conversation. Dave is an interesting guy, and we talked with him for hours before realizing how late it was and heading back to the hotel.

The next morning Steph and I grabbed a lovely breakfast at a place by the river that Dave recommended, which had some nice french breakfast dishes. We decided to find some of the strange elevators that are continuously running. We found the upside down horse statue and elevator with an observation deck in the middle of the city, but it was closed. Then we went to the main square with the astronomical clock. We walked around there for a bit in the Christmas markets before heading to City Hall, where they have on of the paternosters in the back. We rode those for a bit, including going through the horizontal interchange.

We walked back to the clock and watched it go off, which was neat. It was amazing for the time. We walked to the national museum and met Dave in Wenceslas square.

We ate some Christmas market food, then headed into the museum. We went through the museum for hours, as it has all sorts of amazing exhibits. We didn’t make it through the whole thing, but eventually had to leave from it getting late. Then we had a nice dinner and beers at U Fleků. Their dark beer was amazing, and I got the goulash with dumplings, also amazing.

The next day Steph and I grabbed breakfast at the same spot along the rive, and then we walked the river for a bit up to the Charles Bridge and back. It was a lovely walk and we saw lots of the old city. There were lots of birds out on the water including coots, swans, mallards, and seagulls. We also saw the water rat nutria swimming along the bank and over to some logs; which could easily have been mistaken for a beaver.

We then split up and she went to train martial arts with Dave, while I put on an audio book and walked around the city. I walked the river south for a bit, then went into the city to check out several of the smaller parks. I made my way up to Wenceslas Square and circled it, going through all the shopping arcades, and there were many.

The stores are strange an interesting and have such odd combinations of things they advertise in the windows. Below is my favorite example. They have nutcrackers, bongs, crystal swans, coca cola, lucky cats, steins, snow globes, and nested dolls.

I met back up with the others for dinner at a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant, that is on par with the good ones in the bay area. We had Dave’s wife, Petra, and kid with us. The kid was not having a good day, and the mitigation of buying him one of the light up balloons backfired in that we had him trying to bop us with the balloon all dinner. We headed back to one of the nearby Christmas markets and chatted with Dave a bit. He got us some more of the traditional Czech food and drink. Petra took the kid home and Dave followed an hour later. Steph and I spent the rest of the evening at the hotel bar enjoying our complementary drinks.

The next day Dave gave us a guide for a nice walk around the Castle. We started out with a nice long walk along the river. Then went there and enjoyed one of the museums. There was a balcony at one of the museums there with an amazing view of Prague. The rest of the castle complex was gorgeous, with the cathedral being the most imposing central part. The Gargoyles were drooling as the snow was melting off the top of the cathedral. The royal gardens were closed, and we walked a little ways down the moat. We also got to watch the changing of the guard by chance of being there at noon. We continued down the hill and saw the Lennon Wall, which is a peace monument. The road continued to the waterwheel with the Old Greg type character, and then on to the cute plaza below the Charles bridge.

We stopped by the Rubber Ducky store, then joined Dave for lunch at the Globe bookstore and cafe. Petra and the kid also joined us and we walked to the station together and they told us how to get to the airport. The flight was slightly delayed, but nothing too bad, we hit everything just right to make the train back to King’s Cross and the kitties. Lana was hiding and Archer was ready for attention just as expected.

Getting to London

As our time in the Bay Area was winding down we had a few things happen. First I got covid, most likely from Steph’s family in Hawaii. Then Steph got it from me. We also had a lot to get done with the move. We sold our cars. We sold, gave away, or got rid of our furniture and electronics. And we prepared for our house to be rentable. For the last few days I was there, and the last week Steph was there the house was completely empty. We were using camping gear on the floor.

The movers game to get our pile of stuff for the air shipment and the ground shipment, then I was off to Atlanta.

I got to the UK and was able to get all my stuff and onto the underground without issues. I was about an hour late, but the upgrade to business class was nice enough to make me not mind it so much. I got to our new apartment in a building complex called Ice Wharf. I checked in and put my stuff down, but had to get to King’s Cross to meet up with Irene.

We had a nice walk along the canal to where she was staying in Camden. Then we headed to the grocery store and back to my place. She was so kind and made dinner for the two of us while I unpacked and got things ready for Steph and the kitties to arrive.

The next day I did some shopping to get the last few things that were really needed for the kitties and Steph on arrival. I then had a long wait for news of the kitties, but luckily they were doing just fine. Steph showed up shortly before the cats, and we brought them up into the bedroom. They were traumatized, and Lana even sounded horse from meowing so much in transit. Archer hid under the clothes hamper and Lana found a way under the bed. We gave them some time to relax and went to the grocery store again. Irene came over for dinner again, bringing some soup, and we chatted for a while and checked in on the cats often.

Archer and Lana were ready to explore the apartment the next morning and were almost back to their normal selves by the middle of the next day. I was so relieved that they were quick to adjust. They especially like the views from the windows.

Thanksgiving in Atlanta

I was able to stop over in Atlanta as I moved from San Francisco Bay Area to London. I arrived after a red eye at 5am. The large bag pickup didn’t open until 5:30 so I waited around a bit for the guitar my dad had made to show up. My mom came down to the airport to get me. While she is an early rise, that was still very early for her and something I’m thankful for.

We headed to their house and she and I talked for a few hours before my dad got up. Even though I was tired and didn’t sleep well on the plane, I wanted to make sure I was adjusting to the earlier time zone, and then some.

We spent Thanksgiving at my parents house. Jeff, Katie, Elise, Kim, and Grace came over. Grace was cute, and we played some hide and seek. Elise and Grace had a great time together. They put on a little parade with some drunks and a harmonica.

Jeff and Katie brought over most of the food. I was pretty much useless at this point from the lack of sleep so Dad and I played some Gin. He beat me, which was the first time in many years.

Over the rest of the weekend Mom and I went on nice walk, we went to the club for breakfast, and I was able to move some stuff around for them.

We also were able to make it to Birmingham to see Nana. She is doing better than last time I saw her. She followed along with the conversation well and knew who I was. Everyone else seemed to be doing well, too.

They dropped me off at the airport Sunday evening and I was off to London.

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