Friday, February 26, 2016

RIP, Steve

Back in the summer of 2004 when I was a postdoc in Grenoble, I received an email out of the blue from an American named Steve Edwards, asking for info about cycling and the local climbing. He was coming here to climb, ride and watch the Tour that summer. The timing didn't work out for us to climb together -- I was out of town -- but it turned out that we had climbed in some of the same obscure crags in the southern CA high desert. In fact, I quickly learned that he had put up a lot of routes at those crags and that he was some kind of ultra fitness dude. We exchanged emails over the years, during which time he introduced me to the Birthday Challenge. We has been talking more about cycling than climbing (and how to do both!) recently, and in particular the Berkeley Death Ride and the Nifty Ten Fifty. He was always full of encouragement: "You should do it for sure". I had hoped he would make it out to Europe again, but then cancer struck. I watched in awe as he recovered from chemo -- his recovery amazingly involved putting up new routes and riding. It looked like he was through it. So it was a real shock to learn this morning of his death. He was an inspiration and I will miss him.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


We had an excellent meal made by one of Chloe's Genovese collaborators.  Some interesting pasta facts : cook times from the package are correct *if the pasta is really from Italy*.  Make sure it really is 100% grana duro.  If the pasta water gets cloudy:  not a good sign.  Generally longer cook times = higher quality pasta.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Puerto Rico

Was in Puerto Rico for a conference.  First time on the island!  I was mostly in the conference room but managed to see a few things too.  The connections from Lyon are *horrendous*.  Note to self:  much more leg room on smaller American Airlines flights than BA super jumbos like the A380 I was on.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Oltre and our return to Grenoble

Not content with our crappy day yesterday, Chloe and I engineered the perfect last day for Oltre:  One more try at a crag, lunch in Alassio, and then late check out thanks to the generosity of the Limonaia people.  It was a plan with a lot of moving parts, but we were highly motivated.  We got up early, fed the kids, caffinated (TWO espressi) and were on the road in short order.  Then it started raining.  On the trail we then ran into two hunters.  Not a wonderful start, but I was happy when I saw the cliff.  Longer routes! Red limestone!  Huzzah!  And not sandbagged:  Double Huzzah!

Warm up on Reunion: 6a.  Then St Denise (6c ) -- fun!  and Chez Celine (7a) and Merci Laurent (7a).  All very enjoyable.  Definitely my favorite of the crags, and it gave me hope that Oltre was not all short slippery sandbags.  It was raining for the last three climbs, but they were overhung enough to not get wet.  Two older gents arrived later on and were lamenting the cold and rain "Freddo!  Fredissimo!".  They gave candies to the kids (and me).  Next, back to the apartment for a quick change,

and off to Alassio to our favorite restaurant.  

And an uneventful trip back home
No wait at Frejus.  Three days later there was a six hour wait.  Yikes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Oltre Finale day 4

Cerisola today -- my second least favorite crag.  Dusty and white!  I left gear on La Corveira (7a+).  I can't even remember the last time that happen on a low 7.  Behold it's beauty


pretty much sums it up.
Next:  another terrible crag called Tortuga with a garbage clambering approach, greasy sandbagged routes topped off with the sounds of heavy machinery so loud that it felt like dental drills.  Thumbs down.   Dinner was really nice though, despite having kind of an unappealing location on the side of a busy road.  The restaurant was called Osteria del Tempo Stretta.  My only complaint was that the portions were a but too small.  We were all still hungry at the end of the meal and would have eaten more food at the bar, had it been open.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Oltre Finale, day 3

Another day, another crag.  Today it was Red Up.  Another case of terrible directions.  Bravo to the guide book authors!  The crag was very crowded.  We warmed up on Carriola, which was quite nice.  Then I flailed on the ending of Catapulta (7a):  entertaining but way hard for the grade.  Meanwhile the crag was utterly invaded by throngs of climbers.  We quickly put up a short climb not in the guide for Zoe to get on.

  A ZZ-top looking guy with a long white beard hobbled up to the cliff, tied in and pulled off his shirt, revealing an eight pack!  One pack for every decade of life I would say.  These Italian climbers are in shape! We saw him later on in the bar:

Those are his reading glasses on the counter.  I'm not kidding.
Back to the bar for more panini again.  Chloe went for a run, and then we all went to Alassio.  Chloe took the kids to the back and I hit the road to try to get to the Cipressa, but darkness descended before I could get that far.

Through some kind of kid Jedi mind tricks, we ended up sleeping in the same beds as the kids.  This involved all the covers being stolen by them

Dinner was pasta a la maison.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Oltre Finale day 2

An early start:  the cliffs were calling.  

One cliff in particular was calling, which we had seen pictures of and looked amazing:  Rocca di Basura.  Not even the cake.cookie place was open, but I wandered around anyway.
So now... the guide.  The guide is unexpectedly imprecise and we ended up stomping through the woods for entirely too long.  It also very helpfully rates each cliff for child friendliness.  This one had a clean bill of health.  However, getting there involved getting the kids down some fixed ropes.  Nice.  I was about ready to give up entirely until I found the telltale signs of climbers:  a turd under a rock!
FINALLY we got onto the rock
and it was disappointing.  Slippery, short, and a different planet from Kalymnos.  It looks cool though.  We warmed up on this horrible greasy 6a+ (Sabba), then did Melusina (6c), then I did Aleppe (7a) on sight with some difficulty, and we ended on another slippery piece of crap called Nocciola (6c) .  I enjoyed Aleppe and Melusina but the cliff in general was nothing special.  Zoe and Alex played on it though.
Next it was time to hike back up the fixed ropes to the car.  At least it was through some beautifully terraced hills!

We got back to the bar for some late panini (delicious!) and then I hopped on my bike for a quick ride to the beautiful seaside town of Alassio.
Getting to the water was a little harrowing, as was getting back though.
I mainly wanted to experience part of the route of the famous Spring cycling classic: Milan San Remo, but mostly ended up sucking diesel.  The seaside part was wonderful though.  One very nice thing about bringing a bike along on vacation is it allows you to scope out which places might be worth a visit later with the family.  Alassio was a good example of this.  As soon as  I got back, I leafed through the Osteria book and found a restaurant there called I Matetti.  Chloe called and got a reservation, and after a 15 drive, we were there!
I've seen a lot of Italian restaurants with tourist like us waiting out front for them to open, but I have to say that I have never seen Italians waiting for a restaurant to open at the ungodly hour of 7:30PM!  We were encouraged by this.  Alex had already decided that he wanted fried calamari, so we ordered two servings for him and Zoe.  I had the mixed fried delicious things, and chloe won, ordering a fantastic Vongole.  Dessert was ice cream and then apple fritters.  Perfection.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Oltre Finale day 1

We just returned from a brief but excellent trip to Liguria for some climbing and stuffing of ourselves.  We had been hearing about a newer set of crags just West of Finale Liguria (last visited in ~2003), but when our friends Carl and Ruth went there and told us it was good, we knew it was worth a visit.  I did a little bit of research on where to stay, and after a few email rounds found a place in the center of one of the central towns -- Cisano sul Neva.  Before xmas, I had been trying to find a replacement for a beloved set of PJs that I bought for Chloe in Barcelona.  I had even Google streetviewed the neighborhood to find the shop.  After a long chain of further clicking, I discovered that the brand was actually based in Italy, and along the way to Cisano!  So of course I planned our drive down there to make sure we could stop in.  I had also looked through the Osteria book and found a recommended restaurant just south of Turin called Fra Fiusch (  We timed our departure accordingly and arrived just as they were opening, in a small hilltop town.

And then sat down.  Little did we know how much food we were about to eat.  Chloe and I both went for the menus:  appetizer, two courses and then dessert.  Fools!  The kids were in good spirits at this point.

Appetizers:  pretty good, but not exceptional.
Gnocchi:  Delicious, but so, so many of them.  Chloe dared me not to eat them all, but I did, while staring her in her mortified eyes.  That's a heavy and sharp cheese sauce.  Normally this plate alone would be a meal for me.

Next, the goat:
This goat ticked all the cliches for perfectly prepared meat:  perfectly seasoned, tender and delicious. I would have *loved* this if it had (again) been the only thing I atem but by now I was way into the red zone.  I still enjoyed it, of course.  At this point I also finished Alex's fettuccini Bolognese, just because.
The desserts:  This thing (Piemonte in Bocca) was pretty good:
but *this*:  a dark chocolate with olive oil and salt (Cioccolato nero, con caramello, olio e sale), was fantastic:
It was a lovely lunch.  Next time I will order a la carte.
Next:  On the road to the PJ place!  This was actually an outlet just off the freeway.  We ended up in the wrong part of it at first, and despite being right next to the outlet, and in the same complex, there was no indication whatsoever that an outlet even existed!  Eventually we found it though and after a little shopping, headed out again.  We arrived in Cisano a bit later and got the keys to the excellent Casa la Limonaia.  Downstairs, there is a bar with very friendly staff.  We opted for beer and finger food for dinner, since we were still full from lunch.  It was delicious, and just right:
I bought the guide, which we would later discover is utter crap, but still costs 40 euros!
I wandered around the very beautiful town for a bit and then we settled in at the apartment

Thursday, December 24, 2015

money crushing machine

life in Grenoble, France as an expat postdoc
life in Grenoble, France as an expat scientist
life in San Francisco, CA as a biotech nerd life in Grenoble, France as an expat scientist

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