Week of April 8, 2019

This week was Atlassian's annual Summit conference in Las Vegas (do I need to say Nevada?). I just wrapped up a long week of work meetings, and filming customers, partners, and colleagues, around the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

It wasn't all work, but I definitely met my stand goal every day -- and then some.

Arriving in Las Vegas for Summit 2019

Arriving in Vegas with a dozen colleagues meant several awkward (but still interesting) conversations. "Who are you?" "What do you do?" and "how long have you been at Atlassian?" were common conversational themes.

To answer those questions: I'm Nick. I talk to our internal sales people and external partners about how to talk about our products (it's meta, don't worry). And I've been here for 3.5 years.

Coincidentally, my niece was playing volleyball in the same hotel the prior weekend, so she was there with my sister. They were leaving as I arrived, but we got to cross paths enough to hang out for an hour or so :)

Go sports ball 🏐

Motion all day in between Partner Day sessions.

Summit began on Wednesday, but Tuesday was a full day of Atlassian channel partner-related activities, appropriately called "Partner Day."

I gave part of a presentation with one colleague named Paul, but otherwise roamed the halls with another team mate (also named Paul). I work with a lot of Pauls.

Paul (the second one) and I spent most our time interviewing other presenters and expo hall visitors from around the world. Attendees were eager to talk about Atlassian and how they can expand value for our customers.

I can't post any of that content, but the videos were really fun to make. Paul is a standup kind of guy, and I'm an improv guy. That mostly translates to him remembering his lines, and me blanking most of the time. He's also the straight man, and I'm the silly one.

It was a fun dynamic 🙌

Taking a quick break from the mayhem to enjoy a nice dinner with friends.

Two days in, and I was ready to leave the hotel. I literally hadn't left a controlled climate from the moment I landed Monday afternoon to Wednesday evening. It was slightly depressing, and it felt great to step outside -- even if it was to get into a cab to head to another casino for dinner.

We dined at Picasso. The place wasn't exactly what I would have chosen. However, I couldn't help but be impressed by the many Picasso works that surrounded our table. And dinner was with some of my favorite people in the company. Plus the food and wine were fairly good.

Giant inflated balls loomed over the beach party Bash Summit afterparty.

After 4 days indoors, we were released to the Mandalay Bay's sandy outdoor beach for Summit Bash. The traditional conference party was held the final night of the entire event (Dev Day, Training Day, Partner Day, and 2 days of Summit, all crammed into the 4 days).

Whew. That was a long week.

I overextended my 48 hour rule for Vegas by 2x, and I was ready to go home.

Taking off, but not quite leaving Las Vegas.

The ride home was mostly uneventful. I was finally able to visit American Express' Centurion Lounge at Las Vegas' airport. And I can report that it's just as crowded as every other Centurion Lounge I've been to.

I realize they've limited access recently, but they really need to work on finding more space in these airports. They're a nice benefit, though it's difficult to enjoy when you can't find a seat or a power outlet. First world problems are tough 😔

Arriving in Los Angeles for a 30th birthday weekend celebration.

Less than 24 hours after landing, we were on our way to Los Angles for a friend's 30th birthday weekend. It wasn't a crazy weekend 😅. Just friends and their significant enjoying beer, wine, food, and conversations that meandered.

Our friend found an awesome winery located near Chinatown to host the occasion.

I was slightly skeptical at first, but Angelino Winery was impressive. Not only produces their wine in , but they source their grapes from Los Angeles County! And they really lean into Los Angeles' history as a wine producing city, dating back to the mid 1800's. In fact, Los Angeles Historic Park -- located right across the street from their facility -- was one of the first places to grow grapes for wine production in California. There's even a whole book about it 🍇 🍷 🥳

He looks great as a muppet.

A little over 24 hours after arriving in Los Angeles, we were on the road, making our way home. We flew in, and drove back. It's not my favorite drive, but it reminded me of the trips I used to take to LA to visit friends, right after I'd moved to San Francisco.

See you next week!


Week of December 10, 2018

Still at home

Highlights of the week: I enjoyed another week at home, sleeping in my own bed, and enjoying what finally feels like fall in San Francisco.

Monday

Hygge night. On Instagram

Getting back into habits means the return of one of my favorite rituals at home -- lighting a candle for dinner. It's really simple, but it's been a hygge-inspired part of our home for the past several years. The small action helps create a sense of coziness :)

Tuesday

Another day, another great sunset. So happy to have windows at work :) On Instagram

Still enjoying the views, but this time, with a new toy -- my new Moment wide angle lens (using the iPhone XS attachment case). Got a bit more crammed into this photo, and it looked really sharp.

Also, I love this view. Have I mentioned that?

Wednesday

Another photo captured with Moment Lens with long exposure effect on iPhone XS. From Wednesday On Instagram

We have a new colleague on the team, so this week took a group of us out to some bars and restaurants. I grabbed a drink with the team at Jones -- one of my favorite bars in the city (mainly because of the enormous outdoor space). As we were perched on a spot overlooking Geary St, I snapped another Moment Lens shot.

I'm looking forward to seeing what this thing can do when I don't have my SonyAlpha mirrorless camera around.

Thursday

Nothing says “welcome to the team” like a trip to a great Belgian beer bar. Fortunately we have one conveniently located in San Francisco. Welcome to Atlassian! On Instagram

Wednesday was a great dinner with our new hire. I got to try out The House, which served a wide selection of pan Asian dishes. Sometimes "pan Asian" can get confusing, but they kept their menu simple. It worked, especially while sharing several bottles of wine 🍷

Afterwards, we grabbed drinks at Tony Nik's.

This unique bar bills itself as a sophisticated casual spot, serving up classic cocktails. In reality, it's a hodgepodge of designs, that feels divey at times, and is well maintained, clean, and friendly. I've only been a few times, but it feels like a great neighborhood bar, removed from the tourists that tend to frequent North Beach.

Friday

Playing with my new toy — the DJI Osmo Pocket. On Instagram

Another new toy arrived this week...an Osmo Pocket, which I intend to use constantly when traveling. The video above was shot from the Atlassian office, using a feature called Motion Lapse -- a combination of time-lapse and panning.

The pocket-sized camera is compact enough to not draw a lot of attention to the fact that I'm recording or taking a photo, so I'm looking forward to capturing a lot of footage when we go to India next week! Lots of future content to build from this little device 🎬

Saturday

Holiday party with views On Instagram

This was our last week in town before heading off to India for Christmas and New Years, so errands kept us busy. As did a Golden Girls Christmas drag show.

That evening, we headed to a friend's place for a holiday gathering, featuring delicious Cambodia/Laos-inspired Northeastern Thai food from Esan Classic -- one of the best (and spiciest) Thai restaurants in San Francisco.

Sunday

The best sushi bar in San Francisco is just two blocks from home. Kuma Sushi also gave me free ice cream. On Instagram

The eventful week left me happy for some alone time on Sunday. The day was lazy and uneventful. I treated myself to my favorite sushi bar in San Francisco, Kuma Sushi + Sake. After a fairly filling meal and a few pours of sesame shochu, they gave me a bowl of ice cream.

I couldn't say no to the gift. And I didn't.

My last full week of 2018 in San Francisco was eventful and balanced. And it made me grateful for the community of friends and colleagues, and the great neighborhood I get to enjoy.

To more shushi, shochu, and ice cream in 2019 🥳


Week of December 3, 2018

Back in the bay

This week was my first full work week in our new Atlassian San Francisco office, and the first time I’d seen the office without the thick haze of smoke.

Monday

Found the rooftop today. On Instagram

At 14 floors up, and on the edge of San Francisco’s financial district, the views are nothing short of spectacular. They also vary with sunsets and weather changes.

I was definitely ready to move from our old offices — they were in a seedy part of town, which doubled as a food desert, in an area marketed as an "up-and-coming area" of Soma. I lived in that neighborhood five years ago, and it hadn’t changed much. So, the new office with abundance of natural light and beautiful views, was a huge change. A month in, I finally got to enjoy it :)

Tuesday

So many great angles at the Apple Store. On Instagram

Walking home from work, I dropped by the Apple Store. It’s a new convenience that was an out-of-the-way task prior to our office move. It might seem silly, but it's very nice having shops, bars and eateries, conveniently downstairs all day.

This office move has been like relocating to a whole new city.

Wednesday - Friday

It’s wet out there, so I’ll stay inside up here. On Instagram
San Francisco sunset = all of the light. On Instagram
Got some elevation to capture this San Francisco sunset yesterday afternoon.
(Shot with my DJI Mavic Air. On Instagram

More shots from the office. In rain, at dusk, and at sunset.

Saturday

Saturday night lights. On Instagram

A movie and dinner

https://gph.is/2yBWjbS

On Saturday, we made it out to a movie — Yorgos Lanthimos's The Favourite. It was the story of Queen Anne, but with updated fashion, quirky humor, and modern dancing.

Afterwords, we checked out a new pinseria place in North Beach (Barbara Pinseria). It was good, but Montesacro Pinseria Romana in Soma is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Our pizza-like flatbread meal hit the spot, and capped off simple, but great, weekend evening back in San Francisco.

https://youtu.be/SYb-wkehT1g
Trailer for The Favourite.

Sports ball

The weekend ended with a trip to Santa Clara for a football game, with the local 49ers playing my Denver Broncos. I haven’t followed American football or the NFL much in recent years, but games are usually a lot of fun. Plus, going to see any sport live generally has a lot of great energy between the fans, the cheers, and some beers.

It was my second game at Levi’s Stadium — I previously saw a FC Barcelona vs Manchester United match there. We were given tickets to a club suite, which was well-stocked. My precious experience (also in a club suite) had hot dogs and Budweiser; this suite had a charcuterie spread, roasted chicken, and craft beer).

The charcuterie plate was mostly picked over when we arrived, but it was tasty :)

The posh seats were fun, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of advertising that covered every visible surface of the stadium. From the benches outside (brought to you by Intel), to an actual Levi’s clothing store (in case you spill mustard on your jeans?) to the escalator that doubled as a Pepsi cup to each section of suites having a major corporate sponsorship; there’s no way to avoid an advertisement during the game. Seriously, every section of the stadium is sponsored.

At some point, I was too distracted trying to figure out what each ad placement was for, that I lost track of the game, the instant replays, and announcements. All I remember is that I need to drink Pepsi and Budweiser at the casino when I visit Yosemite National Park. Also, fly United.

The game hit a lull, so we went for a walk… with more marketing to sponsor the occasion.

A quick comment here:

I’ve been to American football games in Tampa and Kansas City, and to soccer, baseball, hockey, and basketball games around the world. Some feel more energetic than others, but it usually depends on whether the home team is winning or losing.

And there are ads at most stadiums -- soccer games are usually a full quilt of ads and LED signs all around the field. But usually the game was the center of attention.

Maybe it was just apparent because I don't care for the 49ers, and I haven't been that into the NFL in recent years. But usually I've been able to ignore the plethoras of ads at any sport. Or maybe they're usually more subtle.

At the end of the day, the 49ers haven't had a winning season since leaving San Francisco for the new stadium in Santa Clara, so it's apparent that the marketing value of the stadium is greater than the substance of the team itself.

The real action-packed game.

Critiques about the distracting stadium aside, it was definitely an entertaining experience. But the most exciting part of the game was the halftime show, when a bunch of college mascots played a mock game of football -- the Sourdough Bowl! They looked ridiculous running around, especially the inflated dinosaur bouncing across the field with short arms. It was perfect.

Overall, I had a great time once we got down to Santa Clara. But I wouldn't go out of my way to trek down and look at a million advertisers while trying to spot the football game.

Sunday

The train ride home from Santa Clara. On Instagram

Whereas we took a combination of Lyft --> Caltrain --> VTA to Levi's Stadium, the ride back was more scenic (and eventful). That's because we took an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train, across the marshes of San Francisco Bay.

The Amtrak line was more scenic than Caltrain's path, and it was also more relaxing -- until we hit the Oakland Colosseum crowds. The Raiders' game had just let out as we pulled into the transfer station to get on BART, and their fans were definitely more energetic and excited about their win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Central Coasting

The Plan

For a second year in a row, I planned a destination Christmas with my family. Last year, we traveled to Munich, Germany, Salzburg, Austria, and Salisbury, England, to explore Christmas Markets and visit family living abroad.

This year, we decided to stay more local (at least for me), with a trip through California's Central Coast.

The enormous region stretches the coastal counties between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It isn't an official region, so maps may vary. But the area includes some of the most famous and dramatic coastal features of California, and the biggest stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway that hug mountains that rise out of the ocean.

 

From Wikivoyage. Definitions may vary.

 

While our original plans involved the epic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, the route remained closed (from mud slides) at a pivotal point along the drive.

From "Big Sur Chamber of Commerce"

Instead, we skipped the long roadtrip and decided to settle into Paso Robles for the week leading up to Christmas. Situated almost exactly in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, we found a home base in the heart of the Central Coast. The plan was to explore vineyards and sites in the region.

Paso itself is a quiet town, surrounded by a growing wine country. Of the 300+ wineries in the Paso Robles AVA, we hit up 8, while visiting small breweries and exploring the coast nearby. Below are the highlights from the trip :)


Escaping the City

The first step in getting to Paso Robles was getting out of San Francisco. Per my usual complicated travel logistics, I planned to leave for Warsaw on Christmas Day from Los Angeles, so my escape wouldn't include a round trip car return. We had travel options, from taking Amtrak's four and a half hour ride to downtown Paso Robles, flying from SFO, or driving the full distance.

Ultimately, because we would need a car to get to wineries, we settled on picking up a car from Walnut Creek (and avoiding airport surcharges) and driving south from there.

But first I had to get to my East Bay rendezvous point.

 

 

About an hour later, I reached the end of the BART line at Dublin-Pleasanton station. I'd traversed tunnels and mountains, and I was outside the confines of my peninsular home.

 

 

The end of the line #pleasanton #sfbayarea #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 18, 2017 at 10:37pm PST

 

After a quick lunch at Lazy Dog in Dublin, we finally hit the road to Paso Robles. With little traffic and no stops, we made it to the VRBO rental in time to go grocery stopping. I was at home with my family with no hassle of airports during the peak travel season.


We've arrived

There are many people more qualified to talk about the details of Paso Robles' wine country, its grapes, various soil types, and the 11 viticultural areas within the AVA, so I won't venture down that path in this post.

We visited 6 wineries -- Niner, Justin, Ancient Peaks, Hearst RanchDaou, Donati, Proulx (pronounced PRU), and Shale Oak -- and 4 craft breweries and tasting rooms. That's a lot of booze in a week.

But as we explored the region during the week, we found that the wineries and beer are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the region has to offer.

 

https://www.delongwine.com/products/california-wine-map

 


Starting with wine

We started our wine adventure off at Niner. We spent nearly 3 hours on the property between the tasting room and touring their facilities. They run a very technology-advanced operation with really impressive facilities, but still produce relatively small batches of wine.

 

 

A heart on the hillside 💚 #pasorobles #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 20, 2017 at 8:41am PST

 

After the long, extended tour at Niner, we made our way to Justin to end day one. There was no tour or nearly-ready wine tasting, no extended story about how Justin rose to prominence in the region. We just sat outside under the canopy of the tasting room and enjoyed the sunset into the fog rolling in from the Pacific Coast.

 


Exploring the coast

After a day of drinking at vineyards, it was time for a break. And what better way to enjoy California's central coast than to visit the Elephant Seals in San Simeon?

 

 

Taking it easy #nature #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 21, 2017 at 3:39pm PST

 

These enormous creatures make weird noises and mostly just lie on the beach, basking in the California sun. But in the winter months, they become more active. That's when the seals give birth to (relatively tiny pups (which we saw) and mate (which we did not see), so they was a lot of activity on the beach all morning.

 

We spent over an hour at the lookout spot. The seals went from lazy to playful and back again. But most of them just sat there on the beach.

 

 

 

I couldn't help taking photos nearly every moment the seals moved. This particularly large male was lying on the beach doing nothing for most of the visit, then got up and started making a ton of noise. He then went back to his previous resting state.

Meanwhile, the smaller seal in the background slowly made its way to the water.

Again, nothing really happened, but they kept us entertained.

 

Rawr!

Coasting further south

After we watched the elephant seals (do mostly nothing) for over an hour, we headed south to the small coastal community of Morro Bay.

Morro Bay is known for the giant Morro Rock, prominently situated at the entrance to the city's harbor. The rock is one of several volcanic plugs that surge out of California's coast and contribute to its nearly boundless geological diversity.

We grabbed lunch at a restaurant called The Galley, hugging the bay, and overlooking the giant rock. Morro is a great stop along the coast, as there are several restaurants that jut out into the water with unimpeded views of the rock. And most of them are fairly good with fresh fish and seasonal ingredients.

Morro Rock

After wrapping up lunch at Morro Bay, we headed back north to San Simeon, just short of where the elephant seals spot.

There isn't much in San Simeon today. There never really was much to the town, as it historically supported communities of whalers with a convenience store. But William Hearst supported one incarnation of San Simeon, and its wharf, which also supplied the enormous Hearst Castle about a mile inland.

Today that store houses the Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room. Which was our next stop, before literally crossing the street for a sunset tour of Hearst Castle.

After tasting a few reds, we made our way across the street to the Hearst Castle visitor center, where we caught our bus into the mountain estate.

The tour was brisk, and I didn't bring a tripod. So my outdoor photos suffered from my shaking (and freezing) hands and lack of time to find a good angle. But the sunset behind the marine layer lit the sky up in orange, and the building became a warm refuge from the harsh, freezing winds whipping the mountain.

Overall, the tour was a nice addition to their normal daytime offerings. But I would recommend visiting during the spring through fall months to experience Hearst Castle at its best.

The main outdoor attraction, the grandiose Neptune Pool, was empty and covered in scaffolding for off-season renovations. And the evening tour didn't allow for visitors to walk around and explore the property. On a previous visit I'd been able to spend a lot of time wandering around outside after the tour.

But once we stepped inside, we were treated to Christmas decorations and stories about William Hearst's favorite time of year to host guests at his mansion. This is where this tour really shined.

We snaked around the rooms of the castle until ending up in the theater, where we watched a clip of Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds singing "White Christmas" from the film Holiday Inn.

I was ready for bed, but we had to trek back down the hill (it's about 20 minutes each way), then drive back to Paso. Thankfully no wineries were open, or I'm sure we would have found another testing :)


Back to the beach

The next day we headed to Pismo Beach, just one community further down the coast from Morro Bay. But before we could get there, we stopped at Ancient Peaks, to sample wines from their unique array of soils.

Ancient Peaks is among my favorite wineries in California. They have unique soils that feature soil rich in calcium from an ancient oyster bed that was thrust up from the Pacific over time. Though the tasting room wasn't on their property, their staff was incredibly knowledgeable about how the different flavors and affects the soil, moisture and climate affect their wines.

I wanted to return for their ugly sweater contest later that evening, but, alas, we had to get going.

The approach to Pismo Beach less awe-inspiring than Morro Bay, and the city and its surrounding towns is more built-up, with hotels, condos and single family homes sprawling across its stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Pismo is known for its beaches and clams -- Pismo hosts an annual clam festival each October. While there are surfers and hotels all over Pismo Beach, the area is nice and bustling with activity, but not fancy or extravagant, maintaining roots as a getaway for working class families in nearby Los Angeles.

 

 

Here, I took a long walk on the beach with my family. We made it down to the tips of the sand dunes, where there's usually a lot of ATV activity. Then we grabbed a beer at Pismo Brewing's tap room, located just a few blocks from the beach.


For the last stop for the day, we found ourselves watching sunset at Avila Beach, yet another small coastal community along the Central Coast.

Avila Beach was by far the most upscale area we encountered, and it is filled with relatively new wine bars and restaurants overlooking San Luis Obispo Bay (and its three piers). Though the development hid its messy 20th century past.

 

 

There goes the sun 🌞 #Avila #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 21, 2017 at 5:38pm PST

 

Like much of what became the State of California, the Avila Beach area was first developed by Europeans as Mexican land grant from the kingdom of Spain. Named Rancho San Miguelito, and granted to Miguel Ávila, the land where Avila Beach stands today was developed after California became a part of the United States. And as the major port for San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach became a leisure destination for Angelenos to the south and San Franciscans to the north by the late 1800s century.

The region had a mixed record following World War II as California's oil economy developed and a nuclear power plant was built just a few miles up the coast.

After decades of energy production, and subsequent oil cleanup efforts, Avila Beach's economy became mostly tourism-driven.

The economic boom saw many working-class and highly-skilled employees locate to the region, but the oil company hid contamination from an oil spill that led to a major excavation of homes and businesses decades later. The Diablo Canyon Power Plant never suffered a meltdown, but took a political hit after the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.

We hardly recognized the presence of oil production -- until we drove up the prominent hill and saw Chevron's logo splattered across the fencing.

Regardless of the darker parts of its recent past, Avila Beach seemed to have recovered from the oil spill. The new water-front shops and decades-old piers draw visitors and locals to the expansive beach, and make for incredibly scenic sunsets.

 

After sunset, we found ourselves at another brewery, Central Coast Brewing, where my parents made friends with the brewer's wife. And then eventually the brewer himself.

I was the DD, so I only had a few sips. But their beer was really well crafted with complex flavors.

Unfortunately that was about my only option for tasting, as their beers don't travel very far, even to San Francisco. The brewery they only distributes directly, so they tend to stay within relatively small footprint around the Central Coast.

We ended the evening with a traditional Santa Maria-style barbecue dinner at Firestone Grill in downtown San Luis Obispo. Though a bit of it tourist trap, Firestone makes a mean BBQ tri-tip sandwich that always hits the spot.


Back to wine

After two days of sights and scattered wine tasting away from the vineyards, we were back with a vengeance for another round of exploring vineyards.

This time, we made our way to Daou, revisited Niner for lunch, and finished the day at Donati.

 

 

Fire up the pit #pasorobles #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 22, 2017 at 7:22pm PST

 

At Daou, we could see part of the smokey haze drift into the nearby valleys. The view was beautiful, though very brown due to the unseasonably dry winter weather.

 

 

Niner's food menu didn't disappoint -- their kitchen was rated one of the best winery food options in the country. And Donati was surprisingly comfortable and unimposing, with its smaller operation and family history literally posted on the walls.

The patriarch of the Donati family was an Italian immigrant, and his story is shared throughout the tasting room from an his ship manifest to the names of the wines themselves.

We had a very full round of wine tasting, and we even made time to sample some very good -- though very expensive -- olive oil.


It's a wrap

As Christmas approached, our time in Paso came to a close. The days were short, the season cold, and shops started to close early in the lead-up to the big day.

We had also slowed down, and we started our final day in Paso walking around the town square and ducking in and out of boutique shops in the heart of the city. Inevitably, we found something to drink before noon at the Santa Maria Brewery tap room (and restaurant).

 

 

This is my life, but not exactly my choices #drinking #pasorobles #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 23, 2017 at 12:57pm PST

 

With one drink down, we were off!

We pulled into Proulx, and spent the next hour and a half talking with the wine maker and his wife. They were city-dwelling east coasters who fell in love with the land in Paso, and took to building their winery on land that happened to have some old Zinfandel vines that predated their purchase.

Proulx's wines were full of flavor, though I missed several tastings because of the energetic conversation.

A band was playing when we pulled into Shale Oak, and the tasting room opened to a cozy outdoor space with a small stage. The space was lively, with the winery's dog roaming around and people bundled up and singing a long to the cover band.

 

 

Final vineyard of the Christmas season #pasorobles #ca

A post shared by Nick Thulin (@nickthulin) on Dec 23, 2017 at 9:15pm PST

 

The week flew by, and it was nearly Christmas. As the weekend hit, we'd reached the end of our wine adventure along the Central Coast.

There were lots of sights, sounds, and, above all, booze, to enjoy along the way, but it was time to venture further south toward Los Angeles -- where our next adventure awaited us.


The Map


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