The 142nd Kentucky Derby

This year I got to experience my first Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. This was a wedding gift from Chrissy’s parents, and what a wonderful experience it was. The Derby is famous for its Southern fashion and the dazzling large hats for the ladies. I wanted to have some fun with it, so with Melih and Greg’s help I got a killer outfit together. Chrissy found the perfect dress and spruced up a hat with feathers. Turned out great:

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Super fly, with the entire attire for just costing ~$120.

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Churchill Downs, the racetrack located just south of downtown Louisville, is enormous. There’s the towering grand stand on one edge, bleachers on the other, and the infamous infield which has the feel of a bring-your-own-picnic music festival but where everyone is wearing Vineyard Vines. Our seats were in the grandstand, but the lowest level — literally eight feet from the track itself. My friend and old Apple colleague Nevin was also in town for the Derby and amazingly enough, I discovered was in our very section. So cool and random to reconnect with him two thousand miles from California.

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Here’s the view of the track and the grandstand. The famous “fastest two minutes in sports” race of the Kentucky Derby itself is actually just one of the horse races run that day. There are a total of 14 races, starting at 10:30am and spaced out every 30-45minutes. The Derby is the 12th race of the day.

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We got there right around eleven. The weather — Kentucky can be notoriously fickle in May — was cooperating. There was a two minute shower in the afternoon, but thanks to seeing the radar on our smartphones, we ducked inside the concourse and avoided getting wet.

Cyril and Chrissy taught me how to bet at the windows. The minimum bet is only $2. There’s a whole smorgasbord of bets you can make that involve picking horses to win (1st), show (2nd), or place (3rd). For example, you can place a $2 bet on horse #10 to win. If you bet on picking the 1st and 2nd place horses, it’s called an exacta. So $2 on Horse #10 to win and Horse #7 to show. You can hedge that bet by “boxing” it, to make it a box exacta. That makes either combination win — horse #10 and horse #7 finish in the top 2 spots, no matter the order. Picking the top 3 horses is a trifecta, and you can box that bet too.

So there we went, spending the day betting on the races, drinking mint juleps, and took a gander around the infield. I was only making 1 bet per race, and was losing on every single bet. Cyril, Chrissy, and their mom were all scoring wins.

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The excitement for the Derby is palpable. People might have been trickling in all day, but by 6pm the entire grandstand is packed. The Derby is also famous for running 20 horses in the field. Most races of the day only involve 8 to 12 horses.

This year the big story was Nyquist (#13), who came into the race undefeated in eight starts, but still had doubters. By the start of the race, he was still the clear favorite at 2-1 odds. A lady in line whispered an inside scoop on a horse named Exaggerator (#11). When it came time to bet, I put $5 for Exaggerator to win, and $4 down on a box exacta for Nyquist and Exaggerator. The favorite has won the last three times at the Derby, so not making a bet at all on Nyquist would have been foolish.

The gates flew open and the horses stormed past us at the start, then make the first curve and enter the long stretch on the other side of the track. Here I pick them up as they make the final turn into the home stretch:

Nyquist won! Followed by Exaggerator who burst ahead of Gun Runner in the final stretch. Wait a minute — that means my box exacta bet won!! I showed Chrissy my ticket and her eyes went wide. She snatched that ticket out of my hand “for safe keeping”, and when she cashed it in, came back with $76. That $4 bet turned into $76! With my only win of the day, I managed to be the only part of the group to finish in the black.

Amazing people watching, great weather, fun entertainment, a snazzy outfit, and even made some money too. Not bad for my first Derby!


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The Verve Opens on the Westside

The Westside of Santa Cruz — the neighborhood we live in — just saw a location of the famous Verve coffeeshop open up in the recent weeks. The Verve is probably Santa Cruz’s most famous coffee; in addition to four locations in town, it also has expanded to three in Los Angeles and even one in Toyko.

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The coffee is not the dark roast side of the spectrum that dominates chains like Starbucks and Peets. The Verve features more light roast that bring out the origin of the beans — the result is a more tangy, tart, exotic brew. They did a beautiful job on the interior of this Westside output, and I love the fact it’s only three blocks from our house!

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Beach Day

It’s hard to convey just what a gorgeous day it was last Sunday in Santa Cruz. The kind of day that you want to (and can) spend every minute outside while being comfortable. After an early morning hike through the redwoods of Henry Cowell State Park, we took Luna to the lighthouse dog beach.

The surf was huge — easily crashing in at 12+ feet. And there were dozens of dogs of all breeds and sizes running around. One was a giant black mastiff, easily could have been a 150lb+ dog!

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C’mon WordPress, you struggle with smartphone photos?

All I want to do is insert photos taken with my smartphone into this WordPress blog. But for some reason, this seemingly common act is extraordinarily difficult for WordPress to manage. When I go to Add Media in WordPress, I just want to be able to select photos from my phone to insert into a post.

First, the photos need to come off the phone. They all upload automatically to Google Photos, but Google Photos doesn’t provide a direct link that WordPress can use to insert. I found a plugin that can make the links work, but it adds an ugly large caption to the bottom of the image that isn’t easy to remove. I tried finding alternate plugins to insert photos from Google Photos, but they all require involved (and extremely poorly documented) steps like getting API keys and OAuth client IDs. After 30 minutes, I gave up.

I tried uploading the photos on the phone to Dropbox, and then see if I could get a plugin here to work. It was easier to link, but the plugin failed to load my images.

So finally I just upload the photos from Dropbox (via my laptop) straight into WordPress. But the photos are taken at 12 megapixels and are ~7MB each. WordPress shrinks down to just 342kB and lower resolution to fit it on a page, but it’s compression algorithm isn’t very good so the resulting image looks really bad.

I’m just sort of amazed that in the year 2016, it’s still not simple or intuitive to get high quality photos off a smartphone and into a WordPress post. Sigh.


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Falls Creek of Henry Cowell State Park

Wonderful hike recommended to us by Cyril — the Falls Creek unit of Henry Cowell State Park.

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Ok, let’s do another Half Marathon

July 31st – the San Francisco Half Marathon. I just signed up for this, so let the training begin! Credit goes to my buddy JD at work for prodding me to do this one. It’s actually the first half of a full marathon, and quite a picturesque one too. The course starts on the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building, then goes along the Bay before climbing up to the Golden Gate Bridge — where we’ll run the full length of it and back. From there, the course heads south to end in Golden Gate Park.

Training has begun in earnest, so let’s see how this goes.


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Mike and Nader in Santa Cruz

Got to see two close friends in Santa Cruz recently – Mike and Nader! Every March there’s the big Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, and that means every March my buddy Mike — who I’ve known since high school — heads to the West Coast. He’s been attending the GDC for now nearly ten years! And even after all these years, still finds time to come see me.

Nader finally earned his five year plaque at Apple, and is still up to being, well, Nader 🙂 Even though Chrissy was less than 24hrs from getting back from China, we spent hours catching up. Checked out West Cliff, got a coffee at the Verve downtown, and dinner at Bantam Pizza.

And when I noticed Mike was wearing the same hoodie as last year, I tried capturing the same moment:

2015:

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2015:

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Warriors vs Knicks

A couple weeks ago, I got a Slack from my manager that read “Got 4 tickets to a Warriors game. Who wants to go?” My eyes went wide. Hell yeah! And not just any tickets — these were half-court, five rows back from the floor. VIP parking passes, access to the BMW Club Lounge, everything. Whoa.

The NY Knicks were in town, and on a Wednesday evening me and three other fellow hardware team members headed up to Oracle. Inside the arena, we kept showing our tickets and kept getting into more and more exclusive areas. If someone thought we looked out of place, it’s because we absolutely were. (The bartender poured our beer into a real glass and when we asked if we could take them to our seats, she rolled her eyes and handed up two plastic cups).

I had never been this close to the court before:

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It was an amazing experience – especially since I had been watching the Warriors all season. The game itself was a blowout, but still got to see the dazzling shooting show of the Splash Brothers.

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Huge thanks to those who made that night possible!


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Mutual Rescue

Please watch this beautifully done story of Eric & Peety. As someone who never experienced the companionship of a pet before adopting a lost dog from an animal shelter, I can’t imagine my life now without one.


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Westside Rainbow

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