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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Enterprising Gujaratis

As some of you know, the ethnic group within India that I hail from is Gujarati, as in from the state of Gujarat. In my case, my parents and grandparents never really lived in Gujarat, but that is where the ancestral home is for our ‘tribe’. Apart from having a distinct cuisine, language, and dress, Gujarati’s are also known for their business prowess and their willingness to travel far and wide in their endeavors.

Last December, the Economist featured a wonderfully in depth article on the global spread of Gujaratis, and how they have navigated varying cultures to achieve an understated yet largely successful place in societies around the world. Even I learned a lot from it! And some of it certainly hits close to home:

For many Gujaratis the point of acquiring knowledge is to attain practical goals, particularly business goals. The Gujarati word vediyo, meaning a person who studies the Vedas, the ancient Sanskrit texts that constitute the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, has come to mean a “learned fool”. Ethnic-Indian Americans have applied their practical knowledge to Silicon Valley; they are responsible for about a quarter of all startups there, and a quarter of those are thought to be Gujarati.

Despite having been born and brought up in the US, proudly first as an American and second as an Indian – I still feel stirrings of pride when I see successful Gujaratis. Mahatma Gandhi was a Gujarati, as was Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan). The current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, is a Gujarati (though any mention of Modi should also call out his dubious role in mob violence against Muslims). The Ambani’s who lead the giant Reliance corporation and who are the richest people in India are Gujarati. India’s great industrialist family Tata are Gujarati Parsi’s. All of these people grew up speaking the same language my family speaks and eating the same kind of food my family eats.

However, Gujarati people number only ~46 million in India (~3.5% of total population). Another ~15million live abroad, with around 300,000 living in the United States.

A recent article at NPR talks about the dominance of Gujarati’s in the US hotel industry. The statistics are eye popping:

Indian immigrants and their children make up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, but they own roughly half of the motels in the country. And about 70 percent of those motel proprietors can trace their heritage to just one state in India: Gujarat.

I’ve of course witnessed this phenomenon myself. When my mom and I drove out to California at the start of grad school, we stopped at a Days Inn in the middle of nowhere New Mexico, off I-40. The woman behind the counter was Indian, and Mom took a guess: “Tame Gujarati cho?” Minutes later, we were sitting in their living room at the motel sipping chai and eating Indian snacks.

Going bigger than just Gujaratis, it’s a pretty interesting time for Indians in America. After decades of quietly pursuing the American dream, now people are stepping more and more into the limelight. The CEO of PepsiCo (Indra Nooyi), CEO of Microsoft (Satya Nadella), CEO of Google (Sundar PIchai), CEO of Adobe (Shantanu Narayen), CEO of Mastercard (Ajay Banga), CEO of Nokia (Rajeev Suri), to name a few. Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari in comedy. Vijay Iyer for jazz. Sri Srinivasan (Federal Appeals court judge and possible Supreme Court nominee). Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General.

Not bad for a group of people that only make up 1% of the US population!


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