Archive for July, 2012

Onward and Upward

Far easier than making new friends: importing old ones.

Jakob and Katie came up from, erm, inferior Californian cities to Berkeley this weekend to celebrate my birthday (22 as of the 24th!) which was really nice, especially considering that my actual birthday featured me being at the office till like eleven or something obnoxious.

Now here’s the thing, though. I’m sorta torn when it comes to writing about the past couple days, because by most measures my weekend was nominally a pretty typical weekend for someone in his early twenties. I went out with a mix of new and old friends, got drunk, and watched Batman. This is a tried-and-true way to have fun — that’s probably why the phrase ‘going out’ specifically encodes bars, clubs, restaurants, and movies — but I feel pretty strongly that writing about that sort of thing turns me into the blogging equivalent of those kids who like, tweet about making breakfast, or god forbid post instagram-filtered photos of said breakfast on facebook.

Namely there’s no reason for anyone who wasn’t there to give a shit, and for anyone who was there it would be supremely weird to read my like, commentary on going out with them? Like, what: “That bar in Berkeley was fun but gosh Katie is getting really lazy with her wardrobe; shit is embarrassing” or something? Profoundly uncomfortable, especially for the people I am just starting to meet and befriend. Why is precisely why the China match was intended to be coverage of a) events that were far removed, geographically and personally, from the blog’s readership and b) events that were unique and interesting in some capacity, so the blog was less about Kevin Shepherd’s personal life and more about the misadventures that Kevin had, which are always more interesting anyway and generally don’t require outside knowledge (like who ‘Jakob’ is, for instance) to be compelling. That sort of blogging is mostly impossible when I’m in the states, which is why it mostly doesn’t happen.

The reason why I’m torn is that now that I’m living here for the forseeable future, it’s starting to look like there maybe isn’t any great way to stick by this rule of thumb while also continuing to write quasiregularly. But on the ‘unusual thangs’ front for this weekend, at least, I’m still set because I spent several hours trying to gain access to the rooftops of UC Berkeley and toured the Google office in San Francisco, both of which are stories that are better told with pictures.

The only way to tie all this together:

Climbing Stuff I Probably Shouldn’t Climb, Particularly When “Stuff” Refers to Hip Technology Companies Which Are Far Too Cool To Ever Employ Me.

Also, Bears and Jakob.

So as some of you may or may not know, I kinda really like climbing things. Not so much in the traditional sense like climbing walls in gyms, or even trees, but rather climbing up insufficiently-secured buildings on North campus, or decaying Chinese landmarks, or down equally-unsecured-hatches into the Northwestern steam tunnel network.

(Click to enlarge)

So naturally when I figured out I was living within a block of a new college campus, my initial reaction was to take the Ezio-approved strategy of climbing up to top of the tallest possible building to get my bearings, then throwing a torch onto the kegs of gunpower stored at the top of said buildings as I dive dramatically off into a bale of hay hundreds of feet below.

All this to say is that Jakob and I tried really damn hard to get on the rooftops of Berkeley but their security is a lot tricker than Northwestern’s, so we were only really able to get up to one, and it was designed for people to go on. Had to cut through a construction zone to get there, so I guess that’s something, but still largely a bummer.
Still pretty though:

…but perhaps not as pretty as everyone’s favorite european posing with some amazingly-posed bear statues

How YOU doin?

And then let’s be honest this is pretty unrelated but I got to tour the google office today and then go do some work there for a while, and it kicked ass so I’m gonna put some pictures of it here because they deserve to be somewhere. And the Austin Facebook office too, because I toured it in march and have since realized that there will never be a good opportunity to upload them, but their ‘wall’ is really cool:

Naturally they get a full freakin' cafe FLOOR

And a slide. Unfairly cool.

One of the only things FB did better than Google, at least from what I could tell


The issue with not writing for a few days is that it all just builds up in my head anyway, and now I have four posts that I want to throw together into one huge mess, and I think that’s probably a bad idea.

So we’ll start simple. We’ll start, as all good things should, with Nicolas Cage.

Around 10 days ago this story started spreading on the internet that some poor, genius girl had accidentally sent a potential employer a picture of ol’ NC instead of her resume. This story is only sad because I was not said employer.
Here’s what’s particularly cool about it, aside from the obvious:

I don’t even know if that’s readable at the size I compressed it down to, but honestly I don’t care.

The point is that eight people, including two in conversations that I sadly couldn’t screenshot because they were in person, saw this goofy little post that’s tangentially related to Nicolas cage, and all of them presumably had the same thought: “this has to be brought to Kevin’s attention.”

…Which is fucking awesome.
Because to me, and I think to a large extent this applies to everyone, the notion of “who I am” is mainly just a function of my friends and my interests: I’m hugely defined by the things that I like or do, and the people with whom I choose to surround myself. The screengrab-amalgam up there is a perfect example of those two things intersecting — like it or not, (the former), I have found myself in a position where liking Cage films is just one of my Things, where my friends associate those films and that actor with me and in that way it reflexively is going to impact my relationships with people and (by albeit loose extension) my interactions with the rest of the world. Other Things of mine that come to mind include, what, Starcraft, Homestuck, Daft Punk, blogging in this style, all sorts of these little hobbies and interests that I like to spend time on. Any single one of them could get a huge blog about why it’s awesome, and probably will at some point.

And I was going to write a hell of a lot more about this sort of theory of personality and external self-definition but I’m going to have to skip ahead to the part where I’m being utterly robbed of all of these things and I’m starting to feel deeply, deeply lost.
The reason I have to skip ahead is because I just got a call telling me that I’ll be needing to work a 15-hour Friday — that starts an hour early, so I need to be at the office by 7:30 — and then put in at least 24 hours of work this weekend. Which is to say, in the next three days, days normally associated with relaxation, I am going to ostensibly need to cram in a regular human being’s work week. So if this post comes across as disjointed, that’s because it is. There was originally going to be another hour’s worth of writing between the cage part and the work part, but now there isn’t.

At every time in my life before, when I’ve mentioned or even thought about “not having time” for something, I’ve always perceived that phrase as largely being bullshit. I’ve always, always been able to make time when I need it. I was always good at school and could always get my work done quickly, which meant that for about four or five hours a day at least, usually more, my entire life I’ve been able to devote, as one Aesop Rock would put it, to hobbies I have harbored based solely on the fact that they make me smile if they sound dope.
Here’s the full verse, which kills me mainly because an 8-hour day has been such a pipedream these last four weeks:

Now we the American working population
Hate the fact that eight hours a day
Is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn’t us
And we may not hate our jobs
But we hate jobs in general
That don’t have to do with fighting our own causes
We the American working population
Hate the nine-to-five day-in day-out
When we’d rather be supporting ourselves
By being paid to perfect the pasttimes
That we have harbored based solely on the fact
That it makes us smile if it sounds dope

The short of it is: not having time is a real thing, work-life balance is a real thing. In college, if something comes up like, oh, a final exam, then hey i’ll only gchat for half an hour tonight instead of an hour and a half, or I’ll only watch three games of starcraft instead of ten, or I’ll read one chapter of whatever fucking book I’m caught up in instead of two.
But now, counting commutes, from 7:30am to generally 10 or 11 pm I am literally tied up in something that requires my full focus and energy and not only is there a very literal zero TIME for anything else, I am starting to think that because of that I’m starting to run into some real and hitherto unseen issues with focus and stability and life satisfaction or whatever; complete deprivation (due to shortness of time) of the things that I like doing combines with a new and friendless city to have some pretty fucked up impacts on my attitude and behavior. I’ve lost my context. And I can’t even talk to my friends about it, because god knows I don’t have time for them and that fucking kills me because honestly that’s the only thing I really have in the first place. So I’ll spend an hour writing this and just hope they all find it and that they all understand, that you all understand, that I will be out of touch for a little while and that is not because I want to be it’s because I don’t have that that much of a choice.

I could write till 3am tonight, and I’d love to do so, but there is work to be done.
I’d quit but I want to prove to myself I can do this, and there is a very definite end in sight.

I think things will be better after this coming Wednesday. Bear with me.

I’ve now been “out” in San Francisco exactly twice. Both were pretty memorable.

The first was a week ago in this place called Smugglers Cove, which apparently was ranked by some random international booze site as the 19th best bar in the world in 2011 / has been voted the best bar in San Francsico apparently, yadda yadda. I’m only finding out all this now. All I knew at the time, and all I knew up until ten minutes ago, that it was a) on Connor’s street, so maybe a five minute walk from home, and b) is that is a pirate bar.

Not a pirate bar in that just like, the bartenders wear nautical-themed clothing (though they do) or the drinks have silly names (though they do) but that it’s a full-on, this-might-as-well-have-been-built-by-disney-except-wait-oh-there’s-booze-everywhere, completely balls-to-the-wall decorated to look like a piratey cave thing on the bottom floor, a ship’s deck on the top floor, and a big ol’ bar on the ground floor. it’s nuts.

This is what the walls of the place look like everywhere. I'm fully aware of how dumb and kitchy it seems, but then it's great

Probably the coolest thing I saw there was this gigantic bowl of godknowswhat for four or five people that the bartenders (waiters? they were in the cave part) cover with cinnamon and then light on fire, which is then promptly manipulated somehow into a column that reaches to the ceiling and leaves the whole area smelling like cinnamon and rum and badassery for like five minutes. Oh and the corners of the bowl are little volcanoes that continue to stay on fire as the people drink the contents down via two-foot straw. Which sounds so corny and stupid until you’re there and it smells and looks awesome and shiver your goddamn timbers, you want to have some too. I had, among other things, a drink called a ‘grog’ where one of the listed ingredients is just straight-up water. Best drink I’ve had in a long time. Maybe not worth $9.

Far and away the most important event that night at Smuggler’s Cove concerns (and what doesn’t?) the Irish boy band called The Wanted. I can’t even remember if they were playing or if Connor’s friends and I were just talking about them but that doesn’t matter. What matters first is that you picture this, as clearly as you can:

Look at my life, look at my choices

So we specifically discussing this song called “Glad You Came” (hehe, get it get it) and everybody was laughing heartily at their hilarious pronunciation of “can” in this line when this next part comes up, wherein the singers intone: “You hit me like the sky fell on me, fell on me // And I’ve decided you look well on me, well on me // So let’s go somewhere no one else can see, you and me”

We got to talking about how uniquely baffling that middle line is.
Interpretation 1) was what we had previously thought, IE “[boy] thinks that [girl] looks good, provided [girl] is on top of [boy].” this is obviously pretty dickish for [boy] to say but that’s fine
then 2) one of us realized that maybe a better interpretation was “[boy] has decided that [girl] looks well UPON [boy], like the girl could look at him poorly, or scathingly, or whatever but she looks “well” on him so maybe she’s checking him out. This was all well and good until this british girl who we were hanging out with came back from getting more drinks (we drank them; we could) and told us we were all idiots and didn’t know UK slang well enough.

INTERPRETATION 3 AND THIS IS CRITICAL: the Brits (and I guess Irish) use ‘well’ in the same way that they use ‘properly,’ which itself is abused in slang but like… you know how if a girl is ugly, a brit might say “She’s a proper minger!”
Turns out “well” works the same way, namely is used for emphasis, so it can in can be interpreted similarly to how American kids use “legit” in slang. So that line actually just translates from silly Irish boybandese to “I figured out you were really looking at me.”
We were of course trashed by this point and that was way too much of a knowledge bomb so we all shouted really loudly in comprehension, except that we were all speaking in accents so we were actually shouting british nonsenseisms at one another in excitement. We left very shortly thereafter. My brother’s friends are great.

Oh shit this is already way too long and I have to get in a car and drive back to Berkeley.
Last night, we were wandering around because all the bars were full and we wound up in a bad part of the tenderloin, whereupon some sort of bomb or gigantic firework detonated on the street corner that we were on, maybe fifteen or so feet in the air and forty feet away, which doesn’t sound that exciting now that i’m typing it but it set off a street full of car alarms and threw off a shitton of smoke and pretty much sounded like how i think of a bomb sounding like. which is kinda scary when you’ve been drinking and caused us to hustle away which earned us the mockery of all the druggies on the street. Now that I think about it though, what I bet happened is some kid had a bunch of fireworks left over from the 4th and his mom told him he could only light one last one tonight, so he just took all the gunpowder from his leftover fireworks and threw em in one of those mortar shells. Or maybe a convenience store just actually got bombed right in front of us. It was loud, dammit.
Oh and that whole night, one guy in our group was wearing a suit made entirely of velvet who told me all about the finer points of taking acid, as well as these parties they have in san franscico called “party in play” EDIT: apparently “party and* play” which i was going to elaborate on here but then i realized that it was fucking gross, and i’m out of time, but mainly it’s just fucking gross. cya!

Witty jokes; weird tag bar on top

(No seriously I am not at all liking this line of tags running under “Whitey in Beijing.” For anyone unfamiliar with the China Match, my increasingly-inaccurately-named blog didn’t have that tag-navigation feature before, probably for the simple reason that it is hideous and now I can’t make it leave. Five minutes ago, I updated my theme to its newest version — which itself is 510 days old, apparently. This was a mistake. That’s what I get for trying to make my return to blogging coincide with a sleek new graphical update on my WordPress theme. Serves me right.)

Anyway, as you might have already surmised I’m not actually in China for this one. Or even anywhere in not-America, which has pretty much been my only blogging rule so far. Unless you count Cage-Match-related posts, or those posts I put up between China trips, but nobody read those anyway because they were mainly babbling about like, the viability of finding a homestay program in New Jersey. They’re best forgotten, let’s be honest.

About the most I can say in defense of my California bloggin’ is that it’s happening while I live in a place that I usually do not live, with the bonus that I don’t really have any friends yet, so I rarely have pesky “things” to “do” that could interfere with my demanding reclusive blogging schedule. Not that I’d have time to see my friends even if I had any, because my job is crazy — more on that later — but hey.

I guess two hundred and fiftyish words into this post is a good a time as any to mention that I’m living in Berkeley now, working at an investment bank called Pacific Crest Securities down in San Francisco proper. At least until September, when my internship ends, I’ll nominally be blogging about the weird shit I encounter in the Bay Area, which is assuredly in no short supply. I might talk about my job a little but I signed somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-seven confidentiality forms saying that ‘I won’t talk about my job, ever at all to anyone for any reason’ so I’ll have to keep that pretty limited. It’d be boring anyway. Today we’re going to talk about how terrible I am at finding lodging for myself.

Because good god. I am bad. I am so bad at it.
I didn’t even know that that was a thing that people could be bad at, but then I saw what I selected for myself. And was actually going to have to live there, but for the grace of an older brother who a) can recognize what a crackhouse looks like before I signed the lease that makes me live next to one for several months and b) lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend, who permitted me to crash in her spare room for several weeks.

“Live in Oakland,” they said. “The commute will be fast,” they said. They didn’t mention that in many parts of Oakland, unless you are consuming liquor, drugs, or religious services, there isn’t much of interest. The Craigslist ad certainly didn’t make a note of that. So yeah, I moved out into the home of the first random Craigslist person who responded to me, and moved all my crap into this weird house that was adjacent to two vacant lots and what was later revealed to be a crackhouse, without a second thought. Thankfully I was at least smart enough to not sign a lease or pay the landlord any money until he fixed my door (it wouldn’t close), which didn’t happen in the four days it took from when I moved my shit in to when I was actually slotted to begin living there.

The day I was going to sign said lease and begin inhabiting this place, Connor and my family came by with the rest of my stuff and saw the place for the first time, whereupon Connor observed that the house I was living next to had all its windows covered up, had a permanent lookout on the porch, had a TON of people coming and going, and oh-look-at-those-nice-men-having-a-meeting-in-their-car-and-exchanging-stacks-of-twenties-oh wait that’s a drug deal happening right in front of your new residence, isn’t that nice.

So I bailed on the lease and retreated back to Connor’s house, at which point I sent out another batch of Craigslist ads, and again responded to the first one who got back to me, and am now living in a place that periodically loses power and also has no kitchen. It’s basically a dorm. Which makes sense, considering that I’m like a block from UC Berkeley.
Aside from that though, I’m loving Berkeley and my part of it specifically. I’m at shattock and university, for anyone who may be in the area and wants to steal all my shit. My job keeps me busy and things are starting to settle into what’s approaching a routine, wherein 7:30am – 9:30pm is spent either working or in the process of getting to or from work. I never said it was a great routine. But I kinda signed up for it when I decided to take an internship in banking.
Again, more on that later, I think I’m off to bed. After I iron my shirt for work tomorrow. Christ, it’s like I’m a real person or something. Thankfully I can hear drunken Berkeley students shouting about something outside my window and it’s making me more nostalgic than angry; that’s a good sign, yeah?