San Jose || South Haven

As promised, I'm going to stray away from the usual week synopsis I give and concentrate more on random thoughts that float around my head. I do want to thank everyone for the bday wishes, gifts and adventures to SF, the As game, Inglorious Bastards in Livermore, and Muir Woods and Sausalito. I had a great time!

Now that I've been in my apartment for a month (it's felt a lot longer), I've started to notice a very strange parallel to my cottage in South Haven and my place in San Jose. Of course, SJ doesn't have the clean air, Lake Michigan, blueberry trees, or thunderstorms, but I do seem to be continually reminded of our place on 77th street back in MI.

Anytime you explore a new place, you're never sure what you'll find. South Haven (SH) and SJ both brought new experiences. New places to see, things to do, stuff to brings with it a mix of emotions: excitement, worry, curiosity, frustration, suspense, pride...and I'm amazed at how it can be found in two very different corners of the US.

On the one hand you have South Haven, a sleepy little town on the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan. We bought our cottage in 2002, uncertain of what we'd gotten ourselves into. I'd never moved anywhere new in my life; I grew up in our home in GP. Even though it was a vacation home, the temporary move from city suburb to rural township every few weeks was quite an experience. We learned how a septic tank worked, how to turn on the water pump, how to soften water...all things us townfolk never dealt with before. For me, it taught me the need to branch out a little and try new things outside the "bubble" of GP.

The house itself was a blank slate for us to etch in our own fashion. Wallpaper came down, paint was brushed and rolled on. Carpet torn up, gardens replanted, new and old furniture trucked in, assembled, shoved through the doors. It became the true "home away from home", a little escape from the GP. We settled into our routine, showing up every few weeks, shoveling ourselves out (and getting snowed in) in the winter, battling the woodpeckers and grass in the spring, gathering blueberries and laying on the beach in summer, and burning leaves and watching the rain in the fall.

We explored every little place and scene around South Haven. Festivals happen year round, selling everything from arts/crafts to blueberries. The Kal-Haven trail, stretching 33 miles between SH and Kalamazoo, offers a great bike ride (aside from passing the pig farm). You can head up to Saugatuck and feel cultured by all the art galleries, or you can stuff your face with a great burger down at Redamaks close to the (Indiana) border in New Buffalo. We have checked out every little shop on the three block main street in downtown, some two three times as businesses come and go. I can tell you where the best ice cream is, how to get to the dump, or what's inside the old abandoned camp down the street...

It's what I've always thought of as a cottage, a little place frozen in time that you can go to and always have a good time. Of course, not all is good. We've had our share of somber moments as well, especially when the sump pump failed, flooding the basement twice and leaving the new carpet and painted walls in shambles. But we picked up, cleaned the mess, and moved on.

So what's with San Jose then? I've moved to three different places in California since freshman year, so what's the big difference? The move alone reminded me of our cottage: nothing in the apartment and a van outside with my life in it. Now that I'm working, I can actually afford the things that make my place a home. My apartment is a yet another blank slate to fill with furniture, paintings, electronic gadgets, and all the trinkets that make a place yours.

I'm still in the exploration phase, just like we went through with SH. I'm searching out the best restaurants, the coolest bike rides, the strangest festivals, you name it. As the days go on, I branch out farther into this city, trying to find things to do and meet some new people. This can be the most exciting time in your new home, and I intend to push that to the limit.

Like SH, I'm sure I'll have my fair share of obsticles too, but seeing our place back in MI gives me confidence that I can survive on my own and make a great place to live out here in the Bay Area. Of course I'm uncertain what will come next half the time, but that's half the fun right? For all of you moving on from college or just moving somewhere new, I say go out, find the most random things to do, go to places and events you never would of thought to go to. You might just find something or someone really cool. Look at me, I've gone to more art shows in the past month or two than I'm been in the past ten years! Am I a true connoisseur? Nah, I'm just checking out what there is to do. You will probably come across a few things that aren't your style (I haven't really crossed one of those yet), but you just move on to the next thing on the list.

To me, a routine sucks the energy and fun right out of a new place. What?! Matt doesn't like routine? Of course I do, but you gotta keep mixing it up and trying out everything when you're new, otherwise you'll just get stuck in a rut. My "To Do" lists get longer everyday, but I'm having a good time adding more to the lists while crossing off a few items at a time.

With time, I'm sure the routine will come, as it always does...everyone likes routine, no matter how much you deny it. But by then, I hope that I can call SJ my "new home", just like SH became my "home away from home".

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The closing of a week, the making of a book

I seem to be stuck on the "one blog per week" schedule at the moment, but maybe that's enough. This past week (so far as I can remember) was pretty mediocre, so let me try and pull together a run down.

Work has been moving along. I've got a couple projects now and even have gotten to do some testing in lab! I always like doing hands-on work (the go old "Learn by Doing" methodology from Cal Poly). Glad to see Jimmy down in the lab. He still makes fun of me for deserting the firmware team, but it's all in good fun. Last Wednesday was the annual Firmware/Hardware team outing to Santa Cruz; it's always a fun time. I was kind of disappointed that we had to buy our own lunch (hot dogs from Costco of course!), but hey those budget cuts run deep, even affecting our picnics! The games were a little less intense than two years ago. We didn't go running up and down the beach with buckets of water (Jimmy and I were spared). Overall it was a good time and not too crazy.

Wednesday was also my first MeetUp outing. I gotta admit it was pretty fun. We met up to see Monty Python downtown in San Pedro Square, which is a cool place with tons of restaurants. Lee, the organizer, was very friendly, along with all who came. There were only 5 or so of us, but we had a good time. I hope to go to more of the their events, maybe join another group or two. It is just good to get out and meet people, since I'm by myself over here in San Jose for now.

My biking is getting a bit better; the route I tried out the previous week seemed a lot easier. I think I've found my official exercise run. Next, I want to figure out if biking to work and around the area can work out. I really miss my old commuting bike. :( Having my nice bike is great, but I don't want to go around in all my gear and worry about it getting stolen. Maybe I can find a junker on Craigslist. I'm also working on getting into the gym at Hitachi, but I need to get a doctor's approval first. Really? I'm 22 and in good shape. Oh well, now that I have insurance, maybe I can get those appointments.

Friday was awesome, Rob and Ursula came to visit. I gave Ursula her birthday presents; she seemed to like them, although I got the usual scolding for spending too much. This week's my birthday, so I'm sure I'll get too many gifts from her, which will make me feel bad, but oh well. (Yes Ursula, I know you read this.) Anywho, after presents we headed over to Gordon Biersh in downtown SJ. They had a really cool outdoor setup inbetween the buildings. Great food and live music. Afterwords, we headed over to A Perfect Finish...yea great name right? They serve desserts and various alcohols. However, they don't serve any mixed drinks, just straight alcohols. We shared some desserts and I tried a liqueur that was really good. That was most of Friday, a pretty mellow night, but a nice little adventure downtown.

Saturday, I explored a lot of the surrounding cities and neighbourhoods. In the morning I headed over to Los Gatos (LG) to check it out. They also had an art fair, the Fiesta de Artes, going on that I wanted to see. I didn't really find anything interesting at the fair, but I did take a tour of the city. It has a ton of shops and restaurants; it kind of reminds me of downtown Grosse Pointe Woods. I tried out a local sandwich shop before heading back home. I headed over to the fish shop to get supplies to clean up my reef tank and get it back into shape. That wasted most of the afternoon before I headed out to Mountain View. I was going to Cupertino, but from reading online it sounded like there wasn't much of a downtown if any (which my co-worker David confirmed today haha). Mountain View's downtown has a TON of restaurants; I don't know if I'd ever get to try them all. The rest of the evening was pretty boring.

Sunday was my hike day. I tried out a "moderate" hike in my new book. I wanted to play it safe, since most of these books are written for people who could hike 50 miles/day. Turns out, I was actually disappointed. I did a 4-mile loop trail in the Santa Cruz Mountains (not the ones on fire). The climb was a little too easy for my taste, and the trail was pretty much just a road surrounded by freeways, fenches, and powerlines. Not as scenic as I had hoped. Next time I'm going to try out the longer and more difficult trails...

Let's see. Oh! The title of blog...forgot about that. I've officially dived into writing my book! It's not much so far...random plot lines, flash cards, and notes in notebooks and on my computer...but it's started. I'm trying to spend and hour or two a day writing out ideas. I've also decided that reading a book on writing a book is pointless. It totally stifles the creative process. I'm already lacking in creativity, so reading this structured book isn't helping. I think I'll just use it for quick pointers and reference rather than a guide. Besides, it is based on the idea that the person reading it just has one idea. Well, I have a plot, characters, details, etc...I think I'm a little past that. The book itself is coming together. Remember, if you have any thoughts or ideas, I would be glad to entertain them. And no, I will not let you pick your pseudonym! I will try and post some pics of the writing process as I move along. Of course, I won't give anything away haha.

This Thursday is my birthday! Woo, I have Friday off too! It's hard to get excited about it now that I'm.....23?....yea, wow I feel old. I always do, since I'm the first one to turn out of all my friends. It's always been that way. Well, it should be a fun couple of days. Ursula's planning Friday out; should be fun. Blake and Nikki are also coming into town Thursday, and we'll be going with Rob and Ursula to the As vs. Tigers game on Friday night. What are the odds? I'm not sure about Saturday/Sunday, but I'm going to plan a trip up north of the bay if no one is going to hang around. Maybe Muir Woods? We'll see.

Until next time kids (hopefully not next week)...


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Latest Apartment Pics Up

Hey y'all,

Just dropping a note that the latest pics are up of my place in SJ. You can check em out here:

My Apartment - August 2009

I'm especially proud of my end table made of boxes haha. More stuff's on the way once I make sure all my bonus/paychecks are in line. Next up: frames for everything, end table, coffee table, and a vacuum.



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A day trip to SF, another pair of sunglasses lost

Before I get to SF, a quick recap on the week: .....

No, just kidding, it wasn't THAT boring. Work is getting much more interesting; they've assigned me a few tasks/projects to work on. I can tell that they're probably considered mundane tasks by most, but I'm having a lot of fun learning the ropes. I hope that I continue to have plenty of work to do (sounds like I will). The big company picnic in SC is this week, we'll see how I hold up during the games this time around on the hardware team (aka the "dark side" to my firmware buddies). I think I can handle it.

I found a new bike route! It's about a 20-mile exercise run that travels through Campbell, Saratoga, Los Gatos, and a bunch of other surrounding neighborhoods. I grabbed it off of, which is a great site. I was a little worried that there wouldn't be enough hills to make the ride worthwhile. WRONG. How could I forget from two years ago; those hills west of Saratoga can REALLY fight back. Not that they are really steep and high like those I took on in San Diego; no, it's worse. These hills are at a slow/medium incline and they last for MILES...not cool. You turn the corner, there's more uphill, turn again, more hill. Does it ever end? (Of course it does, but I like the dramatic buildup...) I'm also toying with biking to work. It's about 10-15 miles through flat areas, plus we have showers at work. I'm just not sure if I want to use my nice bike (and wear my "Spiderman costume" as Blake so nicely pointed out). I may get a junker bike to ride around, because I'd like to ride to the store too by bike, save some gas and be green.

I'm already missing the house in SLO, or more so my roomies and friends. I like being on my own and having my own place, but man, meeting new people in a new place is TOUGH, especially for me. I'm trying out, which hooks people up with common interests. I'm still looking into good groups, they have them for newcomers to the Bay as well as for different age groups. Shoot, they even have an INTJ personality group! (An ENFP already sent me a message to join their forums lol) We'll see how that goes.

Other quick week updates:
- Found a new fish store with a HUGE selection and good prices. Definitely my new store for my reef tank.
- Got a haircut at a cool place and have started trying a new do. I haven't really mastered it yet, I'll probably post some pics one of these days.
- Went to SJ Friday night, checked out San Pedro Square. They also have a First Friday Festival on 1st street which was kinda cool. The square has a few bars and mostly restaurants, so it'd be a cool place to go with people one of these days.


Alright, now on to SF. Kristen and Ursula, you'll appreciate this (and Nikki and Blake will laugh): I spent part of Friday planning my entire Saturday in SF out. That's a definite if you're going somewhere, even if you want to play it by ear; there's got be SOME sort of basic plan. And to help with my plan, I grabbed a book at B and N on Friday. I had a hard time choosing, since the tourist books had stuff to do but were too...touristy. On the other extreme, the books for people moving to this area were too...boring; they told you where to find the local schools, grocery stores, etc. Not for me! In the end, I found a great little number (dad, you'll love this): San Francisco: Free & Dirt Cheap. I gotta say, it was a great investment. It's still a tourist book, but a lot of stuff avoids the main tourist mess (well some of it, the stuff that costs big $$$). It also talks about places to eat, sleep, explore, and more. I made a list of places I wanted to see and then picked a bunch of it based on a map of where I was going to go. Don't worry Ursula, I skipped the Musèe Mécanique for now. I also left a lot of art-related stops off since they weren't on my route. I combined it with a bunch of old stops since I hadn't been to SF since Blake and I visited Nikki and Ursula last year. In summary, my trip consisted of the following:

- Ferry Building (Farmer's Market)
- Union Square
- Chinatown
- Coit Tower
- Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf
- Ghirardeli Square
- Cannery
- Lombard Street

I got up early this morning, ate a little, and drove to BART, which I took to SF. Next time, I think I'm trying out CalTrain; driving 40 miles to BART seems like a lot of effort and gas, but it's still probably cheaper.

The first place I headed to was the Ferry Building, which I had never been to. I went to check out the Farmer's Market, which is why I got an early start. They sell a TON of fresh organic fruits and other foods, along with giving all the free samples you could want. I checked out the various stuff, deciding that it probably wouldn't last the whole day and trip back to SJ. There was also an arts and crafts fair in front of the building, which I checked out. I'm still trying to figure out how to fill out all my wall space. I bought a small set of 3 paintings of SF.

Next I grabbed lunch real quick at a bagel shop before heading over to Union Square. I was hoping that there would be an art show going on over there too, but unfortunately it was an event with all the local SF chefs giving lessons, so it was all closed off. Too bad.

I walked over to Chinatown to see if there were any buys for my place. No such luck. I did get to see a cool parade of several of those people dressed up as giant dragons. They ran from store to store, dropping firecrackers all over the place. It was pretty cool.

After that I went over to the Coit Tower. I can't believe I never had gone up there. The steps alone were pretty cool; I guess there's something like 370 steps up Filmore Street to the tower. I took a lot of good shots from the top. However, like the free book suggested, I avoided paying the $5 for the short elevator ride to the top of the tower. Besides, it was PACKED. Going to SF during a summer weekend was probably not a good idea, but I felt like doing it. Tough luck me.

I walked over to Pier 39 to search for more art and posters to hang in my apartment. I couldn't believe I didn't find anything at City Art, the huge poster store on the pier. I guess Kristen's policy of not buying it unless "you absolutely love it" was kicking in. It's probably a good strategy for an ex-impulse buyer like myself. Of course, not having much of a source of income during college killed that habit. I did end up finding some posters in the National Parks store. It sounds kinda weird, but they had one that was a cool display of all the different artsy park logos. The other was one I saw at City Art, but it was $5 cheaper. (gotta love the deal)

I checked out Fisherman's Wharf REAL quick; it was absolutely overrun like you would figure. I did stop at the Boudin Factory, which I guess I've always ignored until the book mentioned it. I toyed with doing the $3 tour, but I stuck with the free views of the chefs making bread. (including crocodiles and turtles out of loaves!)

By this time, I was kinda of exhausted from all the walking. I ended up walking about 4-5 miles today. I skipped the trolley both ways since it was packed, plus I've done it enough and could use the money. I headed over to the park in front of Ghirardeli Square to people watch. I brought my notes on my novel in case I needed a rest, so I spent a little time jotting down more ideas and picking character names. I'm sorry to say I'm not going to go into details, you'll just have to wait until it is published haha.

I went up to Ghirardeli Square, checked out the shops, and grabbed a sample chocolate at the shop. I felt like some soup, so a grabbed a breadbowl at Boudin before heading back to BART.

On the way back, I took a random road and just listened to music. It's fun to just check out a city. It's a grid anyways, so it's not like I was going to get lost. I put on my iPod and just kinda blended in with everyone, checking out the city outside of the touristy areas. I grabbed a quick pic of Lombard St, since I don't think I ever saw it up close.

I headed back via BART and drove home. Only once I got back to the BART parking lot did I finally have my phone again. I kinda forgot it in the car ALL day. Whoops. In the meantime, I managed to lose my sunglasses somewhere between Boudin and walking. That's how it goes. It's also why I buy cheap ones now; I'm always losing them.

Tonight I just took it easy, watched a movie, and planned some stuff for tomorrow. I'm doing a little shopping, maybe a hike, we'll see. My legs are pretty tired from today, but I want to try out my other new book, a list of 100 hikes up here in the Bay Area. I still have a lot of stuff I need for my place, like tables, lamps, frames, a microwave, know, just a tiny list. Some of the stuff I'm hoping to get for my bday, we'll see. I'm watching my money, although now that I have a higher income I'm not getting so nervous, but I still watch my spending. No sign-on bonus yet, but it should be there within a few weeks. I got my moving and first paycheck already, which was awesome. Now I just need to set up some vacation...and plan some trips woo! I'm thinking Europe for a month next year (I can borrow a week). We'll see...

Alright, that's 1,800 words of randomness, I hope you were entertained :P...I write a lot "sometimes".


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Sexy and Thrifty

Well, I'm back. It took me a week, but I'm here. I've finally settled down a little more into my apartment (Photos I know, working on that...) so I have the time to blog. My place is coming along nicely, although I still am missing artwork on the walls, some tables, lights, and etc, but it's getting there.

I never really blogged on the move, so here's the short version:

1) My dad and I packed everything into a van
2) We rushed to SJ because I took my fish too
3) We unpacked and killed ourselves moving the couch
4) Done.

That really doesn't give that whole move justice, but it's all I got. I had a fun time hanging out with everyone at Kristen's grad party that weekend too. Here friend Pete was in from England; he's a pretty cool guy, even if he did spray me with water like 10 times that day.

In the working world, my first week was a little slow and uneventful, but that's pretty standard. I didn't get my laptop until Friday, so I really couldn't do much work until I got that. I'm all ready for this week, I have a mentor and project assigned to me. Now comes the next phase: reading over all the specs and code and trying to figure out what it all means. It always seems daunting at first, but after going through a few internships and holding my own, I think I'll be fine with it.

Now to this weekend and the title...what the hell am I talking about? On Friday, Kristen and Ursula both paid me a visit (not together). Kristen came up for the day to get her housing situ in Palo Alto settled for September and Ursula was home for the weekend from Davis. We went out to Elephant Bar Friday night and had a good dinner.

As a side rant, I really don't like how as of last month, ALL restaurants now have all the nutritional info for every food item on the menu listed. I know, I have nothing to worry about, but when you stick in 10 pages of that stuff in the back of my menu, I'm going to accidentally flip through it. And if I see that my meal is 1400 calories and 67 grams of fat, I'll still feel really bad about eating it. I swear from now on, any foods I like already, I'm going to refuse looking at the facts on them. I mean, I've survived a healthy life so far on those things, why should this change my eating habits?

Ok...back to being sexy and we all ate and hung out for a bit on Friday night. On the way back to my place, Kristen INSISTED that we stop and get my housewarming gift. For me that was Nutella and white bread. Apparently I just HAD to try it. I'll admit though, it is pretty good, especially with bananas. (there Kristen, I said it, okay?) Kristen went home after and then Ursula and I headed downtown to check out the SJ nightlife. I gotta say, for how dead the place looks during the day sometimes, it was really hopping. There's a lot of clubs, lounges, and bars all over 1st and 3rd. We decided to hit one on Saturday. that was a planner's dream. We got SO much done. Starting at 9 a.m., the Comcast guy showed up. AWESOME. My new HD DVR, 2303480923480 channels, and 16 meg internet is a great new addition to this apartment. Of course the guy took a while to set it up, and even punched a hole through my wall, but it's done.

Next was the flea market over on the east side of town. Man, that place was huge. I've never seen so much random stuff. I drove by it two years ago on my bike, but I never knew it was so vast. They had the most random stuff. I was hoping to find some furniture, but it was all pretty expensive still and I had no way to get it home. Ursula and I got a kick out of the things that looked like extra padding for your butt. Like I said, strange things lol.

The title is from the flea market. I was telling Ursula that I'd be attracted to any cute girl who I met shopping her since they'd be "sexy and thrifty". That's my type right there, I said it. Actually, it's a little more in-depth than that, but those would be 2 qualities I could go for haha.

After a few hours at the flea market2 we stopped at Togos to grab a sandwich. This was our only stop for the day. Of course we happened to see the nutritional info on the food we ordered, but I already bought my combo and ate half of it, so tough luck Matt.

Then we headed over to Valley Fair and a few other malls for clothes and shoes for me. I made the mistake of telling Ursula I needed some new stuff...I had to go now. I found a couple of new shirts and shoes. I hunted the world for some dark brown pants, but that wasn't happening. I was very impressed by Ursula's display of restraint. She barely bought anything at the mall, and NO SHOES. Wow. I even walked through the boots and high heels, but she held herself from buying any more shoes. Ursula, I gotta say, you have way too many shoes haha.

Okay, so that was another bunch of hours. Now we're tired from walking around all day. We headed back to my place to just eat something small there before hitting the club.

We got all dressed up (I wish we had a picture, we looked cute lol) to head out to SJ. Of course we were already tired of walking, and now we headed out to dance. On top of it, Ursula wore her cute high heels. In the end, I had to support her while she limped back to the car after, but that's how it goes I guess. The club was pretty nice; we just missed paying the $20 cover and drinks were pretty good. The music mix was good, but we kinda got too close to the speakers. I still don't think my hearing is back 100%. We looked at some of the lounges too, but I felt like dancing in a club. The lounges seemed less crowded; they're more for hanging out with friends and grabbing some drinks. You can dance, but it just didn't see like the venue I was looking for that night. Oh, and there were quite a few creepers and the place we went. I guess that's bound to happen in any big city you go to. We headed back home a little early because my feet were dead tired and Ursula's heels were getting to her. We both ended up passing out at my place. Sunday was a little more chillax. We got up late (for us that's 9:30-10ish) and headed back to Ursula's home in Fremont. We checked out the Fremont Air and Wine Festival, which was pretty cool. More walking of course. That was my third art fair in less than a month. Ursula found all sorts of stuff to buy. Me on the other hand, I need bigger art/stuff to fill my vaulted walls, so an art fair is the best place to get a deal on large art. I think I'll stick to posters for the big walls. I did find one cool pic of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction, check it out:

Now, I'm on a mission to find it's Mackinac Bridge counterpart, which I saw at the South Haven art fair. I did a lot of research today, but so far no luck. Here's one that's close:

I emailed Mike, the guy who wrote the book above to see if he can help me out.

After the art fair, I headed home while Ursula went home and then back to Davis. I just loafed around at home, cleaned up some random files, ate, etc...

I'm tired, and I have work tomorrow. I'll keep you updated on the apartment progress. And YES, I'll get pictures up soon I promise!


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