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April 13, 2012

San Fran – Day 1

 DISCLAIMER: This post is obscenely long. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 Favourite moment from the airport: The customs officer telling me to convince my fiancé (Oskar) to get a haircut. “You have to be the man in the relationship,” he said “He looks too nerdy.”

 The plane ride wasn’t as rough as it could have been. Both Oskar and I managed to sleep (or at least we think we did) for a significant portion of it. We located one of the other finalists right off the bat, or at least I did. What I’m proving early on in this trip is that I have a great memory for faces.

 Anyways, we ambushed Chris (one of the other finalists from Toronto – Canadian content for the win!) as soon as he got off the plane. In turn, he dug a handful of plastic models he had made with his 3-D printer and tried to explain to us exactly what they were. At the same time, the CNBC crew (they’re filming a documentary about the Thiel finalists and their stories) introduced themselves and started to record our conversations. “Act naturally,” they said.

 Well, we tried. We acted pretty naturally for a group of kids with a lot less sleep between them than they should have had. Deciding to take public transit instead of a cab (it was my slightly misguided decision, actually). We seemed to randomly amble through the airport, then train station, then bus station. It was really a comedy of errors. Trying to read the Google Map instructions, crossing to the wrong side of the street repeatedly, we eventually found ourselves at 16th Street and Mission. For a first introduction to San Fran, it was certainly a colourful part of town. A little gritty, but I loved it.


 Neon colours – on the buildings, on the people. Actually, the people were colourful in general. I am pretty sure a homeless woman was cursing me in Spanish. But I can’t blame them – there we were, wandering up and down the street with our enormous bags, camera crew following us nonchalantly.

 We ended up on a twenty minute bus ride through the city. And I realized how much the architecture in San Fran not only has a distinct flavour but is gorgeous. I wanted to pay attention to our conversations, but I kept looking out the windows at the buildings nestled along the hills. I can’t wait to explore the city more. I’m sure I’ll get the chance at some point!

 After the public transit escapade, we walked to our hotel. The rooms are bright and cheery. I didn’t get to meet Lindsay, my hotelmate, yet, but I am sure that will happen at some point.

 It was already near noon, so we decided to grab lunch (at a nice diner, with homemade scones and some discussion of how computers actually work) on our way to the Thiel Foundation Offices, which are in the beautiful Letterman Digital Arts Centre (Google Image search it – you won’t be disappointed) at the Presidio park. That’s also where George Lucas bases his Lucasfilms company. There’s a Yoda statue I still haven’t seen. Maybe because I’m not looking hard enough?

 Anyways, Oskar and I sat in the Starbucks and collected our thoughts before our interviews.

 Then I went for a quick walk on the campus grounds (apparently the digital arts centre is a campus…?) and I turned to look out to the bay and, well, there was the Golden Gate Bridge. Totally surprised me. Another one of my favourite moments.

 And then I had my interview. I was definitely challenging, but in a really productive way. The five interviewers were asking tough questions but I could tell it was because they were trying to understand me and my idea – they listened so intently to what I was saying and really encouraged me to make my ideas concrete. I came out with a better grasp of what I’d do if I were given the Fellowship and also where I could take my idea if I don’t. I’m satisfied with what I said and confident that they do have a good understanding of what my idea is and what expertise I have to execute on it. And, now that the interview is no longer hanging over my head, I can focus on soaking up all the ideas/motivation/inspiration I can from the other finalists and even Fellows.

 Then, I agreed to be interviewed by the CNBC people. I think it was also about a half an hour, but it definitely had a different feel. Much more conversational. While the Thiel interview was much more about my idea, this one was about me – how I was feeling, how I was approaching the weekend. I actually really enjoyed it. I think it helps to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re at – and the interview was the excuse I needed to do so.                     

 Now, I’m just sitting in the lobby, waiting for Oskar to finish his interview. We have a party at the ‘Firehouse’ tonight – the name that one of the houses many current Fellows live in is called. I’m really looking forward to it.

 Random Asides:

So far I’ve been taken aback at the people. The wonderful people we’ve met. A man at the bus stop who got us out of a ticketing jam, a woman who just showed me her multicoloured rabbit socks (because she “thought I would appreciate them”), a bus driver who specially announced our stop for us.

 I’m just so deeply happy – I am so grateful, I feel so lucky. Also, I’m taking an appropriately touristy amount of pictures, so I’m sure I’ll be shoving them in your faces eventually.


All the best from SF,


Some pictures:


My first view of SF coming up from the subway.



Oskar and Chris


Oh hello there, Golden Gate Bridge.


The beautiful view from the park near the Thiel Foundation Offices.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Naomi Pullen permalink
    April 13, 2012 12:23 pm

    I’m so glad everything’s going so well! I can’t wait to see more pictures and hear more! Could definitely be obscenely longer 😉

  2. Irena permalink
    April 14, 2012 6:49 pm

    Your fiancé really does need a haircut.

    I’m glad you’re having a wonderful time!

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