Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crippled in San Francisco

Ever heard of Freeline skates? It's a quirky ride somewhere between a skateboard and a pair of skates. The learning curve can be pretty steep as it was for me. The inventor is from San Francisco, and he came one day to Pixar to promote them. We have around a dozen crazy riders now at work, and you can see them along with the traditional scooter riders, should you be invited to visit the studios some day.

If you think they look dangerous, you are probably right. Once the craft is learnt though, riding them and deciding direction and speed is quite natural and safe, while you don't care about going fast at all costs - which is not a good idea in a workplace anyway.

Right, if you have read the title you have figured out by now that I have hurt myself. I can hardly blame the skates... Small but heavy as they are they fit easily in a bag... unless its a paper bag. Long story short, skating with fragile grocery bags downhill is a bad idea for at least two reasons:

  • bags can break and disrupt your direction.
  • bags prevent you from jumping as promptly when you are unexpectedly heading for a step (reason being the previous point). 

Having broken a foot, I will be on crutches for about a month. Now, obvious as it sounds being a cripple is not easy, anyone who broke a leg or a foot can tell you that. It gets harder if you live on your own and have to commute to work without a car. Despite all that, San Francisco is pretty well equipped for cripples - or for amazingly lazy people. Buses are usually equipped to allow disabled people on, and the historical trams on the F line have special ramps near each stop.

If you cannot leave home, or cannot be bothered, there are several websites for grocery shopping and delivery. Also, I found this (remarkably decent) food delivery portal that made my life a whole lot easier. Online food ordering is a lot less annoying than having to look up places, call, see if they deliver to your address, not know the menu, cope with background noise, have the change when they come, etc... Hiring a movie is also very easy, in the US there are portals like Hulu or Netflix that allow online movie streaming without having to go to the shop.

The best part is that, since I moved to the Research department in Pixar, I can sometimes work from home if my schedule allows it, increasing the value of all the above. Still, I cannot wait to be walking, running, dancing and especially skating on my feet again!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween at Universal Studios

My friends and colleagues from Pixar had the awesome idea of spending the weekend at the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. The park is located in Los Angeles, so we needed to hire a van that could fit all seven of us. The trip was fantastic, a brilliant excuse to drive down and to see places like Monterey and Big Sur, where the fog, the Sun and the wind contributed to providing an ever changing coastal landscape. The cliffs and the forests were at times breathtaking.

The park opened at 7pm, just after sunset, and it felt very different than it did in other occasions. The darkness was made worse by layers of thick artificial fog, and within it numerous dark figures lurked awaiting for some victims to scare. These people were actually employed by the park to add to the experience, and it definitely worked, at least for the first half hour or so. Dressed in horror costumes and equipped with fake but realistic and loud chainsaws, the actors went straight for the careless visitors, usually resulting in fear, panic and eventually laughter and maybe a photo.

Only some of the rides were available at night, but a few themed haunted houses were added to celebrate Halloween, such as Saw, Halloween or My Bloody Valentine. Inside each of these there were a lot more actors attempting with remarkable success to scare the visitors. Sometimes some actors even posed as visitors, and were dragged into cabinets screaming and definitely spooking the people behind them. I wonder how many people actually worked in the park those nights!

To add to the horror of the night - they spared no expenses! - on our way out of the park we enjoyed the view of a few real fistfights (and probably real bleeding noses) at the bars of the Universal City.