California Highlights: Winter 2014

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending HackTech, a hackathon put on by the wonderful students of Caltech in a exhibition space at Santa Monica Place.

As I sit here at the airport awaiting my flight home, I thought I’d share some of my experiences in California with you.

Hackathon-specific post coming shortly (when I’m less sleep deprived).


CaliforniaMy flight landed at LAX, and I exchanged the cold and snow in Baltimore for weather in the mid-seventies.


I had a $25 credit to Uber, so I requested a driver from my phone and gave the service a try. For those unaware, Uber is a car service company which has been making headlines for competing with the taxi industry. They offer three levels of service: uberX, Black Car, and SUV. I chose uberX, which is their car-sharing service that lets everyday people sign up to drive customers in their own car. It’s essentially a crowd-sourced taxi service.

My driver arrived at LAX, and after brief confusion about where he was picking me up (apparently drivers aren’t allowed to pick up from the airport in California), we were on our way to the hostel.

I’d definitely recommend giving Uber a try if you haven’t already. If you want to help me out, use this referral link. You’ll get a $20 credit to Uber, and I’ll get one too. We both win!

Venice Beach Hostel

I soon met up with Kunal and checked into Venice Beach Hostel. Our third team member, Craig, had his flight canceled on account of the snow back in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be arriving until the next day.

Our room was nicer than I’d expected; it was spacious with two bunk beds, a private bathroom, and a high ceiling. For my first hostel experience, I was impressed.

Venice Boardwalk

Our adventure begins


The day of exploration.

We woke up early and hit up the Venice Boardwalk.

After a bit, we broke away from the shops and street vendors to walk along the beach with the warm sand beneath our toes.

We soon arrived at a mostly deserted Santa Monica Pier, where we discovered people aren’t too keen on waking up early on the West Coast.

 Venice Pier

Ocean from the pier

We also discovered you probably shouldn’t eat the fish you catch in the ocean.

After the pier, we were off to the city of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica

It had a more upscale vibe than Venice. There were more shops, high-end restaurants, and even an outdoor mall.

We hit up a Thai place for lunch, and I tried Red Curry and Thai Tea for the first time. I’m happy to say they were both delicious.

Thai food

Red curry with brown rice, potato wantons and Thai tea.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica, which translates to Saint Monica for you English speakers out there












Craig arrived at night, and after some lengthy brainstorming our hackathon idea was hatched (to be revealed shortly).


Beach. All day.


Lamb wrap with sweet potato fries

Nom nom nom

At night, we hit up a local Greek restaurant. I ordered a lamb wrap with sweet potato fries. The wrap was good, and I loved the way they did the sweet potato fries (some places add salt to their sweet potato fries, which distracts from the flavor. These were sweet and made the way sweet potato fries should be).


Fried Bananas and Coconut Ice Cream

Thai Dessert

We check out of our hotel and book an UberX ride to Santa Monica.

Our group splits up to explore, then meet back up again for a light snack before lunch. We hit up our new favorite Thai place, and I order fried bananas and coconut ice cream (another first for me). The ice cream was alright, but the fried bananas were delicious.

Then, we were off to Whisper, who were giving a tech talk and free lunch to 25 HackTech attendees. Unaware of what Whisper was, but enticed by the chance to meet a local startup (and free lunch), we headed down Ocean Avenue. We soon arrived at the address of Whisper’s office: a place off Ocean Avenue (I’ve always wanted an excuse to say that). If you’ve ever seen The Social Network, their place was a bit like the setup they had in that. It was a house with conference rooms and workspaces set up inside. The best part was the backyard though. It had a pool, basketball courts, a hammock (that was quickly taken advantage of by yours truly), and a guest house. We ate for a bit, met our fourth team member Britt, then listened to co-founder Michael Heyward talk about his company and how it got started. I enjoyed listening to it, and really liked how approachable he was. If you’re reading this, thanks for having us Whisper.

Then, we were off to HackTech. But, that’s a story for another post.

Here’s your reward for reading until the end: a picture of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime at Venice Beach.

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime

Leave a Comment.