Friday, December 14, 2012

Brands, what would the world be without them?

United we stad brand flag
Brands, what would  the world be without them?
What is a brand? Or maybe we should ask ourselves how do we distinguish one company from the other? If you are to buy a car, which one would you buy? And how do you choose from this car from the other one, we have so many options nowadays.
But brands not only entitle one logo and colors, symbols, a good brand makes a company’s experience just pop in your mind when you see the distinctive sings. I am not going to tell you about the history of it or give you a deep definition of it either.
Some people distinguish the psychological aspect, brand associations like thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and so on that become linked to the brand, of a brand from the experiential aspect.
Just imagine, all these huge corporations began as a small idea, then somebody started it,  and with the year they became huge businesses lik we all know them by now.
Since you are well aware that I am more interested on sharing my personal experiences and thoughts about my anything I talk about, I would like to share with you at the closing of this year a few good brands that I got to know well this year. Most of them are my accounting clients and I would like to share with you their success experiences from my point of view.

Don't be so surprised some day maybe in 10 or 20 more years when these people and businesses that I describein the lines below are as big as the ones described at the united we stad brand flag.
Aleili Centeno – Aleili is a wonderful  girl, she is the personification of what I always encourage people to , which is have a full time job and start your own business on the side and keep it this way until your business picks up and just take it from there. Aleili’s brand is Aleili’s design; Aleili is a full time pharmacist that always has the interest of jewelry design. Aleili decided to start designing her own jewelry and some purses as well, I have seen her designs and let me tell you and I am very impressed.
Lauren Amber Serna – I know her for years and her brand is Transformational healing and sitting transmission. Lauren is a life counselor and energy healer in California, and she is based in the city of Granada Hills. I have attended some of her sessions at her home, and let me tell you she is good at what she does; Lauren is also a speaker at multiple public events in the greater Los Angeles area. You can learn more about Lauren at the Interview we did back on August this year. Pay special attention to her thought about what is going to happen on December 2012. Please help to develop the likes on her facebook page.
Jordan Cappella – His name says it all, and his brand is Jordan Cappella, Jordan is an Australian interior designer who is really amazing at what he does, every time I go to his house I can see he is good at what he does. Just picture yourself visiting a major Hollywood celebrity, and certainly Jordan’s house is full of his own work everywhere, and Jordan’s house is just like any other Hollywood celebrity. I have seen the furniture he designs, candles, soap bars, and of course the spaces he designs. Jordan’s work has been portrayed at multiple magazines; Jordan had appearances on multiple TV shows. Please take a time to like Jordan’s fan page.
Lira Luis – Lira is a Architect based in the city of Chicago. Lira is one best example of how to develop a brand. Lira’s brand is ALL Atelier Lira Luis. Lira has architectural licenses in multiple states. Lira is the architect to meet and hire in the states of Arizona, Illinois, also in Asia and Europe. In her spare time Lira has the time to share her experiences with the world giving speeches all over the world, lira also keeps a blog and I am proud to say that the video interviews I have shot with Lira are the ones that have the most traffic ever in my segment “Enrique & friends

Link to lira Facebook page
Luis Pazos – Luis is a multi talented young man, hi is a movie editor, writer, producer  and actor in Hollywood, and his brand is Dasoir Films, I have seen his work which is really good, I also witnessed this year Luis receiving the Toscar Award, that awards the best short films on Hollywood. He won in the categories of the best editing and for the best short film movie in Hollywood. Luis and I went together to the writing boot camp   class earlier this year. Luis was part of this movie Avatar. I am pretty sure you can recognize the guy with him in the picture. This was a great experience. Please give some likes to Luis's Facebook page, we all greatly apreciate it.

Link to Luis Facebook page

Enrique Otarola- All you know who I am, and the brand that I represent which is OREM which has the multiple divisions such as Accounting, Marketing, Nonprofit and soon Real Estate. We encourage people to pursue their dreams and start your own business and whichever interest you have in life. Please help us to build our friend base and help us to reach 1,000 likes in our Facebook page

Darius Paiseka – I know Derek for a few years by now, and I was really impressed by his work this year when I had finally the chance to see his work. His brand is Studio Darek LLC, which is a construction design LLC, his LLC designs and builds projects. Derek is multi talented and his background is in interior Architecture, he is based in Phoenix AZ.  I was impressed to see this building he got and  he transformed it and it is a really hip place. Derek is one coolest person I ever met. And I would like to see his progress on another project he mentioned to me. I still have not seen the cool terrace he had built on his second floor and I am pretty sure we all will enjoy seeing it when I have the chance to interview him there in 2013. Please take some time to like Derek’s Facebook page
Sorry no interview yet, available until 2013.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The tax year is almost, get ready!

OREM Sounthern California
No, my friends and followers, I am not dead yet and I am here to stay, so for the ones that were already celebrating, I tell you I fell great and almost 100% recovered. Thank you for your emails and messages from all over the world. I really appreciate them.
It is November and as we are getting closer and closer to the New Year, I cannot think of a better idea than to start to get ready for Tax season, individuals, companies, individuals with businesses, etc.

OREM Southern California Website
Usually I came across people that have a complicated organization system, mainly because they don’t have any, bookkeeping should not be that difficult, it should only record what is important for your tax preparation nothing else.

OREM Northern California

Some people ask me how to get organize; it is not difficult at all. If you are just starting, you have so many choices nowadays; from the simplest excel spreadsheet to the more elaborated accounting software.

If you are in a small business or thinking to start one, I suggest to record your income and expense with excel every month, and also save your receipts and invoices in order just in case you need to get to it.

OREM Northern California Website
However,  if you want to be a bit more organized than that, I suggest getting any of those accounting software at the local electronics store. I have used QuickBooks, Peachtree, and those are not expensive nor difficult to use at all, I remember paying like $80.00 for my very first accounting software, and the cool part of it is that not only you can record all your transactions on it but also you can scan your invoices and attach them into the software, so you always will have access to your invoices and when you are done in the year, it will give you a nice and well organized Financial Statement that will ease a lot your income tax filing, and will keep all  your expenses in track.

OREM Arizona
What I have discovered as well is the fact that these financial statements also help you to point out the unnecessary expenses so you can avoid them in the future.

So, please do not wait until the last minute to have all your tax forms ready, all your income and expenses ready for the business owners.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Don't push yourself to the limit, or the breaking point, this is not joke

Please, check on your blood pressure, visit your doctor.
Hello Everybody, I want to tell everybody who works hard for your career, business, school, etc.. think how important is this effort that you are doing. You may be one of those people that some times over do it, by postponing  breaks, or by delaying your own personal life. Think on how meaningless all this effort could be if suddenly you get a wakeup call in your life (heart attack, stroke, seizure, etc). 

 Well, let me tell you I was one of those who work ten hours in a row without taking breaks or delayed  breaks for the second part of the day.  I could easily accumulate projects finished one to just jump into the second one finish it and then take my break or relax. I was not aware that I had a high blood pressure for a few months, which is also called the silent killer because there are not warning signs.

What I can recall is having some minor headaches, or felling dizzy at times, which of course I just take some pain killers and keep on working. I thought by just joining the gym or playing some sports it would take care of the problem but I was so wrong. I should have made an appoint with the doctor. 

I was so glad to leave the ICU
and in my way to my own suite

Three weeks ago while at the gym, I was getting ready to play Volleyball with some friends, when all of the sudden  I felt so agitated, then dizzy, then I collapsed, and next thing  I can remember is having my friend Eric next to me telling me the paramedics were on their way.  I remember this worst ever headache. While at the ambulance I remember following some directions, to move my right arm, my left arm, to move my left arm, left leg, I remember I could not move the left side of my body, for some reason I did not worry, I was not fully aware of the situation either. Then I remember being placed into a MRI machine to check my brain.

My next memory jumped to a ICU intensive care unit where I laid down on a bed, then I saw like ten friends around me, then I felt sleep.

At the Intensive Care Unit
 Then hours later, I remember that I was going to have some kind of procedure in my brain. I have  had so many surgeries in the past, I counted the other da and they're close to 10, that I was not really scared nor impressed either, knowing I was in what it is considered one if not the best hospital in the world.
After a few hours I remember having a panel of doctors in front of me, yes I felt just like one of those talent shows, and certainly I did not wanted to be eliminated at this point.
Then I was asked a few basic questions, like my name, here I was at, the day, the time, and to move my arms and legs, this time I remember I was able to move my whole body. The only thing that bothered me was the constant headache, which was minor compared to what I had the night before.
Then hours later, I start on receiving some shocking statistics, like
“Enrique, 95% of people who has what you had died on the spot”.
“Enrique, don’t worry, you are going to live”
“Enrique, you are so lucky, you are recovering so well, and so fast, you are doing great”
“Enrique, you can considered yourself like you have a second chance in your life and you just re-born at this age”
I got most of this information while still at the ICU and when I had access to my personal computer and cell phone. I was so nicely impresed by all the get better messages from all over the world, I was like WOW bad news spread fast. I had some friends visiting me to the hospital as well, Thank you all.
Some friends and doctor family members informed me that “ Enrique, just 3 or 4 people out of 100 survived of what you had, or fully recovered, some people remained paralyzed and have to go under physical therapy to recover fully

Robert, and friends visiting me

I have a friend who  told me that I am so optimistic even at the most scaring times, I do not think of myself as that optimistic, I feel well, except by the fact that I cannot fully move my left feet. Other than that I feel like before except by this minor head aches.
On my last doctor visit I was told I need to forget about those ten hour study or working marathons I used to do. That I need to take more breaks and enjoy more life around me.
I suggests  to everybody to do the same “Enjoy more your life, family members, friends, go out more often, join the gym, take care more of yourself.”
Then I had a friend (client) who told me, probably he was fully aware of what I experienced “Enrique, you have so much to do in this world yet, so you cannot die yet, you need to help me to make so many businesses decisions.”
To be honest with you, this issue surprised me a lot, since I am the kind of person who works out at the gym often, I eat healthy all the time, and rarely felt sick.
I want to express to everybody who works a lot, and who depends on your own or those people that depend on your work, to tell people to Relax and to take life easier, no need to rush or to push themselves to do things or to complete projects, it is much better to take plenty of time to finish your projects and also to take breaks every couple of hours or so.
In my personal case, I am the kind of person that always placed my projects or plans first before anything else, and since I remember from my high school years, I remember working for hours and hours in a row without breaks until I completed my projects or home works and then I finely took my break once I completed the whole projects.
I remember having some headaches or feeling dizzy when working on some projects or home works. I also remember some of my family members   that are doctors telling me to take breaks to be easier with myself or to let my brains relax for a while before resuming to my projects.
I do remember having these issues more often once I was admitted at my Engineering school; I have always just ignore it and just work myself off until finished or completed my projects for school, or studying for any school test.

It is not my intention to give any kind of medical advise, I'm just sharing my own personal experience and hope this could help somebody and who knows avoid this experience to you.
My ideal for breaks or vacations was to complete projects and once everything was finished or under controls then I felt relaxed enough to enjoy a break or a vacation.
Or if you are in a similar situation of where I was or even if you are not, I would suggests  to visit your doctor and have a check up, because you never know what might  be going on.

And yes,  will make some canges in my work and personal life too.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Expanding frontiers in Europe

This Article was written by my nephew Roland Otarola-Grasso who is 19 years old, he is an architect student in Peru and he recently visited Europe for a month for educational purposes and to explore Master degree possibilities and these are his impressions.-
I had a trip to Europe with three of my friends. We all are architect students in Peru (South America, on the Pacific ocean side) Southern Hemisphere (it is winter here) with just one more year to complete our undergraduate program, we decided to visit the best architecture world known cities of this continent, and while at these places also to get involved with their people, culture and of course with what we learned at school about their history, urbanism and get to see some of these iconic places.
It was hard to decide where to go since we were just to stay for one month and we definitely did not want to make the mistake of visit too many and just overseeing them in the surface.
My trip started in Madrid (Spain), our flight was so long (12 hrs) and tiresome, but I was really excited to discover this city for myself since I set foot out of the airplane. It is summer and 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the heat felt so strong in Madrid (Lima city’s summer reaches only 28 Celsius or 83 Fahrenheit in the worst case) but we managed to get used to it. I was very impressed by this city, whoever planned this city did a good job by keeping this place with a quite uniform pattern in all of their buildings, they managed to keep all the building heights almost the same block after block, and they are very pleasant to the eye.
This city is also handicap friendly, we found day after day with a series of features that make their life’s easier, things like special textures in the floors  for the blind in all streets so they can find their ways, also all the street lights have a special beeps and vibrations that help the blind or the hearing impaired people. It was also impressive to find maps in textures on the floors so the handicap can find their ways too.


Citizens of Madrid were in general  very  nice and happy, maybe the happiest people of all  the cities that we visited. Although the general economic crisis in Europe (we know is not the best these days) they seemed happy and cordial.

I witnessed a few street protests while in this city (I had witnessed a few in my native country as well, I do not like them in general because some of them can turn violent with the police presence, while well as a way of free political speech expression, not so good when some people take it too far with the violence) they were protesting for the so called cuts in their national budgets (pensions, salaries, medical benefits, etc) that they were forced to take mandated by the European union. They were in front of governmental offices, public spaces, and city squares. I was a bit scared of the possible outcome of these, while being in a foreign country without any family and just with a bunch of 19 year old friends.

Although the economic burden and the public protests they still made an effort to show their best as a city.
Barcelona - Pabellon Mies Van Der Rohe
Barcelonans in general are very proud of their culture and where they came from, they rather being called “Catalonians” than “Spaniards”. This is the city of Gaudi who has very impressive buildings like La Pedrera, Casa Balto, and the climax of his career La Sagrada Familia.
My next destination was Paris, this is the place I liked the most, this is a beautiful city from any angle you see it, quite organized, clean and Paris mixes the old with the modern so easily. It was so surreal to walk from one historic building next to an ultra modern building.
Barcelona - Agbar Tower
What I liked the most was the use of the public spaces as cultural open spaces. It was impressive to see open public spaces under a monument, cathedral or touristic attraction, these public spaces are open to anyone who want to make use of it, like singers from Sudan, dancers from India, etc. they all are mixed at these spaces and this is what makes Paris so rich culturally and unique.
Rome our next destination, this was a totally different experience, I was very pleased of walking these really old (ancient) narrow streets, those little spaces, talking to their people (my mother side of the family has Italian roots) the shape of the city, the old monuments, the people from all over the world, made me experience other cultures, sensations, feelings, aromas, and things that can’t be described only with words. I felt the history in every corner of this city, the energy of this city is just amazing.

Barcelona - La Sagrada Familia

Florence is another city that I liked a lot. Their streets are not as narrow as in Rome, they are much cleaner.  I can tell they care about their monuments very much (believe it or not, more than in Rome) maybe because this is a much smaller city, I do not know. Florence is the city where Renascence was born and this was an artistic and architectural movement (tendency) that revolutionized the world. My favorite building is there, which is the Filipo Brunelleschi Cathedral, Santa Maria dei Fiore, this was built around 1,300 AC and it still stands intact still.
I had the unique opportunity of climb to the top, this was definitely one of the best sites seeing I ever made, you can see the whole city from this point, all at you reach and it is so pretty.
Amsterdam, was our last destination before going back home, Amsterdam is a small city with lots to tell about history, this city born in the 1,300 AC like a port commercial city, since this city is well located in Europe it was in its advantage to become the commercial point in its early years, with merchants coming in and out from southern and northern Europe, and with the willpower of its people Amsterdam became a vibrant city in this continent.
Barcelona - La Pedrera
This city is quite calm, organized, quiet and liberal. It was a shocker to me to confuse a coffee house with a marijuana dispensary, the legal prostitution (where they offer their services in big windows like a department store), open gay marriage, etc. All of this was a complete change (shocker) from what I am used to, coming from a conservative city like Lima, but later on I realized people are very tolerant and respectful of each other’s rights and once you learn the culture of the city you embrace it, you appreciate it.
Amsterdam is a bicycle city, a bit chaotic for the number of bicycles and the number of people living in a small city, but definitely is the city energy that makes anybody to just fall in love with it. This is definitely the most diverse city of Europe, Asians, Europeans from all over, North Americans, Latin Americans, etc. All of them seemed to be attracted to live in Amsterdam for the freedom, the open way of thinking, without any kind of oppression, without any prejudice, and this was what impressed me the most of Amsterdam.
Barcelona - Natural Science Museum -
Herzog & De Meuron
In general, after this trip I can say each place I visited, each city was unique, their people, their cultures, the way they do things, their languages, trying to communicate with each in a different language was amazing and fun, all of this makes me realize that the people that live in these cities were shaped, influenced by the city that they live in, their buildings, the general way of doing things, their cultural customs, their uniqueness. At the end I realized that have learned a lot by just visiting another cities in another continent and interacting with their habitants makes me realized of things that I was not aware before, experiencing something like this opened my eyes in a way that I never experience before and I have witnessed how broad is this world.

Roland Otarola-Grasso.


El viaje que hice a Europa lo hice con 3 amigos mas, estudiantes de arquitectura del 8 ciclo igual que yo, planeamos mochilear por las principales ciudades de ese continente y vivir lo que aprendimos en la universidad, un poco de historia, un poco de urbanismo, un poco de modernidad y sobretodo tener un intercambio cultural. Lo dificil fue escogerlas porque teniamos un mes y tampoco queriamos cometer el error de visitar muchas a la vez sin descubrir el encanto de cada una de ellas.
Bilbao - Guggenheim
Mi viaje comenzo en Madrid,fue un vuelo muy pesado, fueron 12 horas de vuelo, ya estaba ansioso por descubrir la ciudad por mi mismo desde el momento en que salia del avion. Era verano, hacia 40 grados un calor muy fuerte que quemaba pero poco a poco nos fuimos acostumbrando. Madrid me impresiono mucho, la ciudad trata de guardar un estilo uniforme en todos sus edificios, se respetan las alturas en todas las cuadras y eso hace que se vea bastante bien. Tambien esta acondicionada para que sea accesible a los discapacitados, porque encontramos una serie de cosas que les hace la vida mas facil, como texturas en el piso de todos los caminos para que los ciegos se guien y lleguen a a su destino, tambien el semaforo emite un sonido cada vez que es permitido cruzar y de vez en cuando tambien hay mapas en las  veredas con bajos y altos relieves para que tambien se puedan guiar. La gente es muy amable y alegre, tal vez las mas alegres de las ciduades que visite, a pesar de su situacion economica que en la actualidad se sabe que no es muy buena. Eso es digno de destacar, porque fui testigo de mas de una manifestacion y protestas por recortes en el trabajo y sueldos, frente al Palacio de gobierno y en algunas plazas, acostumbrado a las manifestaciones que hay en mi pais me asuste un poco ya que en el Peru las manifestaciones suelen terminar con violencia, es un buen ejemplo de cómo la libertad de expresion no deberia ser entendida como linertinaje. A pesar de la dificultad como pais, guardan su escencia y nunca te muestran una mala cara.
Mi otro destino fue Barcelona, es una ciudad diferente, es una ciudad mas financiera lo que hace que las personas corran y esten siempre apuradas pendiente del trabajo, parece que son mas serias y disciplinadas. Son muy orgullosos de su cultura se sienten fielmente arraigados por su legado, ellos prefieren ser llamados catalanes a españoles.  Barcelona es la ciudad de Gaudi, tiene edificios impresionantes como la Pedrera, casa Batlo y la obra cumbre a la que dedico toda su vida: La sagrada familia.
Mi siguiente destino fue Paris, fue la ciudad que mas me gusto, la ciudad es muy bonita, es muy limpia, ordenada y mezcla lo antiguo con lo moderno. Uno puede ser testigo de toda la historia pero a la vez deslumbrarse por lo edificios mdoernos que hay.
Una de las cosas que mas me gusto fue el uso que la gente le da al espacio publico como lugar de expresiones culturales, es frecuente ver plazas bajo los principales atractivos turistico (monumentos, catedrales, museos) que han sido regaladas a las personas para que cada uno encuentre su mejor uso. Estos lugares es donde cada uno se manifiesta como es, es lo que hace rica  la ciudad y a sus habitantes, ese intercambio de culturas es lo que hace a Paris unico.
Dias despues nos fuimos a Roma la ciudad es otro cuento que contar, me encanto senir y recorrer esas callecitas, esos recovecos, la morfologia de la ciudad te hace experimentar nuevas sensaciones y poder sentir toda la historia de esa ciudad tan vieja es maraviloso.
Florencia es la otra ciudad que me gusto bastante, sus calles son bien limpias, se nota que se preocupan por sus monumentos (mas que Roma), sera porque es una ciudad mas chica y tienen poco que mantener, no lo se. Aquí fue donde se origino el renacimiento que fue un movimiento artistico y arquitectonico que revoluciono al mundo. Mi edificio favorito se encuentra alli, es la catedral de Filipo Brunelleschi , Santa Maria dei Fiore, se construyo alrededor del año 1300 y todavia esta casi intacta. Tuve la oportunidad de subir hasta la cupula y fue una de las mejores vistas que podi vivir, uno puede ver toda la ciudad bajo sus pies y es bastante bello.
Amsterdam es una ciudad pequeña pero com mucha historia, la ciudad se inicio en los años 1350 como una puerto comercial, por su ubicación geografica servia como pase entre europa del sur y europa del norte y por eso comenzo como un pueblo de mercaderes que buscaba un buen futuro. La ciudad es bastante pacifica, tranquila y liberal, por la legalizacion de la marihuana, la prostitucion, matrimonios homosexuales . Al principio es un poco chocante ver ese cambio del que no estamos aconstumbrados pero despues te das cuenta de que la tolerancia y el respeto es lo que reina en la ciudad y le comienzas a acoger cariño.
Es un poco caotico por las bicicletas y por la cantidad de gente relativamente grande en la ciudad que es pequeña, pero es otro estilo de vida del que algunos llegan a enamorarse. Amsterdam es la ciudad europea con la mas variada diversidad cultural que visite, hay latinos, americanos, asiaticos, europeos de todas partes, etc, etc, es como si Amsterdam le perteneciera a todos y es como esa pequeña ciudad en la que todos anhelaran vivir, sin ningun tipo de opresion y sin ningun tipo de prejuicio. Eso fue lo que ma sme impresiono de Amsterdam.

Algo que uno puede apreciar con los viajes es que cada ciudad es una historia unica y diferente para haber llegado a lo que es en la actualidad, cada ciduad tiene constumbres dferentes y la gente que habita en ella se ha formado bajo esas tendencias de vida. Viajar es importante, con esto te influencias de mas cosas, es como salir de la rutina para experimentar cosas nuevas y ver y ser testigo de la inmensidad del mundo.

Roland Otarola-Grasso.


Click pictures to enlarge - Haga click en las fotografias para agrandar
Bilbao - Guggenheim

Paris - City of Light

Paris - Triumph Arch

Paris - Louvre
Paris - checking messages
Paris - Montparnasse Cementery -
Cesar Vallejo - Peruvian Author
Paris - At night
Paris - Eifel Tower
Rome - The Panteon
Rome - Piazza Navona
Rome - Castel Sant'Angelo
Rome - Piazza De Spagna
Florence - City View

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Social Media, Sustainability and Empowerment in San Francisco

Transamerica building & early skycraper
This time I headed to the Bay area in northern California to take area of some business clients (yes, I like to do the extra mile, about 380 miles in this case), and this short trip was full of surprises and nice events. The good thing about having all of my clients spread all over 3 neighboring states is the fact that I happen to visit them quite often when required and that is an advantage when traveling while conducting business.
The weather in Los Angeles (near the ocean) was about 73 degrees, so we expected it to be about the same these days, and a friend of mine told me the weather would be around 50 and 70, much cooler than Los Angeles. So, after we arrived in the Bay area and left all our cargo in the hotel, we drove to St Helena, to the CIA “Culinary Institute of America”. Robert took four years of culinary arts while in high school and he wanted to visit this amazing place. And while driving throughout the Napa County, we noticed how well kept and green is this whole area.
In general the whole Bay Area has its unique personality, that always draws me to it, with all its green areas, their weather, their well kept landscaping, their recycling bins everywhere (like most of California near the ocean cities), and their people.
Santa Rosa town - 1919 building
While driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, I could not resist but to stop in one of the visit areas, the first one was unusually full so I was forced to make the other end, not after paying the $5 toll. The ocean breeze was colt, my car marked 57 degrees outside and I was wearing shorts thinking like any common individual this is California, and California has its weather, well I was wrong this time.
After making a few stops, we drove north to the Napa County, yes where the California wine comes from, I was excited, we passed vineyard after vineyard, this whole area seem like the perfect place to have the wine tasting, olives and cheese, or maybe to take a class on wine and become a wine expert. The wine sampling did not sound too appealing to me since I was driving and I still had a lot to do in this trip.
More stops, then we passed by this Santa Rosa town, it was so green, so well kept, the weather was just perfect, not too hot, not too cold, and the environment was just delicious. I saw houses from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, these buildings were so well kept and somehow they were recycled into residences and commercial buildings. This place reminded me a lot of Palo Alto which I visited last year in 2011, it was just like it to me but much smaller.
While driving we were trying to figure out how the life of a student at this culinary arts school would be, this place is definitely isolated, and we did not see many apartment complexes around but hotels and vineyards, we figure probably they are must have some sort of dorms or living around the site.

Vine warehouse into reception room

We passed after some breath taking views at this area, picture this, a hill full of green vineyards and flowers around and a Victorian house on top of the hill, we saw this picture several  times while driving, and these place happened to be wine makers, this place was so beautiful and it was not that far from San Francisco, just  one hour away driving.
So we finely arrived to the CIA Greystone, I was glad that it was not crowded like most of California main attractions, the weather was at 85 degrees by now, just perfect!
The view of the main building from the entrance is just amazing, I had the impression of watching a European castle, and the stone building is impressive with all their landscaping around this place is worth the trip.
We started by visiting the museum and look at the original cornerstone of Greystone, where the founder of this place buried some bottles of wine in the concrete foundation of this place. Now they have this stone on display in a crystal box.
We were told by one of their staff members that our guess was right, the students stay on dorms while attending to this school. What surprised me the most was the fact that they not only teach the culinary arts but they also have their own vineyards and they teach all about wines, they also have their own restaurant, their own gift shop, and they have their old wine warehouse (full of those huge wooden wine containers) that was transformed in to a beautiful  room that can host gatherings like weddings, parties, etc.
Speaking about sustainability, green building, recycling buildings and new uses.
Greystone culinary arts school
This is a place that I will definitely recommend to visit while you’re in northern California, while you can buy some good quality wine for really cheap in this area.
After visiting wine country we came back to the San Francisco area, this time he headed to the Fisherman wharf, which is just a few yards away from Port Mason which is near the ocean (I stayed at this place the first time I ever visited northern California a gazillion years ago). This place has all kind of businesses all over the place, many people and tourist from all over the world too. We walk from the free public parking to the wharf and while walking I noticed the Ghirardelli’s brick building (yes, the famous chocolate factory) which is an icon in this city. This building was constructed in the late 1800’s. I remember back the first time I came to this area I wanted to see this place but I did not have the chance. This place was designed to be walked, they have this beautiful  park right next to the beach, a marina museum, and the shops in the near streets.
From this point you can really see Alcatraz which you can access by ferry.
This place is also walking distance from the original San Francisco Port, where ships from all over the world used to connect this city. Nowadays,  they have one of those old ships at the port that you can visit and walk around too.
I spotted the Ghirardelli building just like half block away so we decided to pay a visit. This place is a perfect example of green design, sustainability and green construction. They fused the old brick building with a modern terrace and metal structures that added to the building use. I’ve noticed this lot in this city.  We walked in to the Ghirardelli’s shop where they staff greets everybody with free chocolate samples, we were in heaven!
Fisherman Wharf - San Francisco
They have the famous Ghirardelli plaza right next to the shop where you can relax and rest when you are walking in this city.
This plaza is full of shops of all kinds, and right next to the plaza they have some of the old machines in display, what impressed me the most is the metal and stone mortar that was used to break in to liquid the cocoa beans.  The plaque read that Chocolate is originally from ancient Mexico and the Aztec king used to offer this drink called “chocolatl” in the ceremonies to their gods.
This day was becoming colder and colder and we headed to the last stop before heading to the hotel.
While walking around this city, I could not but admire the beauty of this city, their green gardens everywhere, their Victorian houses, and the new buildings that resemble Victorian houses, their streets that run up and down the hills, its weather, and its people.
It was cold and breeze when we arrived to the hotel. But that did not stop us from reaching our last destination from the day.
Ghirardelli factory - built on 1898
It happened to be a coincidence that my good friend Lira Luis, an architect from Chicago was in the city working in a summit about Social Media in the AEC industry. The last time I met Lira was in Las Vegas in May, you can read more at our May blog article, and you can see our Las Vegas conversation too.
By the time we both met, we were tired after a long working day, tired but happy to reunite. We held a friendly conversation about Social Media and Sustainability with some vine, olives and cheese, and being in San Francisco, the place of green building then decided to record our conversation like we did in Las Vegas for everybody to enjoy.
Since our accounting company learned the basics on Social Media, and we confirmed that having those statistics services work, we decided to create OREM Domains, which is a company that helps you to create a domain name, to build a website, to host your website and to keep track of your traffic with the website analytics service.
Celebrating the reunion - San Francisco
Could you believe that by just adjusting some words on your website, blog or video description you can reach thousands of viewers? This later can translate in revenue.
Filming this conversation on Social Media and Sustainability was fun and very educative for me. For instance I did not know that one of the countries that is the most green is Costa Rica.
I also did not know that by just doing your part while taking care of yourself you can be green and sustainable too, simple things like separating paper and plastic, using less water, using your bicycle for short commutes, not wasting resources and recycling as much as possible. By doing this you are making a big difference for future generations.
The next day we decided to take a tour together in this fascinating city, so we all went to diverse places in the Bay Area in my SUV.
First stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, this place is an amazing place surrounded by neat gardens, walk ways, and the neighborhood is full of Victorian houses style, and other styles that go from conservative to ultra modern. This place has also an artificial lagoon with water fountains. If you visit the Bay area you definitely have to visit this place.
Ghirardelli's new modern addition
Our next destination was Lombard St, which is the crookedness street in the America, this street has traffic in one direction only (down) and it is located in a hill, funny fact is that after we parked, we had to literally climb out and later climb back in to the car because the car was parked sideways in a hill
There were lots of people at this street (tourist mainly) all looking for the perfect moment to take their pictures.
Next stop was Coit Tower, which is located at the end of Lombard St in a hill, this place was beautiful , historic and has one of the best views in the Bay Area, and it was full of people. Too bad they charge to be able to go on top of the tower, so I didn’t go. Parking was also challenging at this limited parking space.
One of our final destinations was downtown San Francisco, this city is so beautiful and well kept that I would like someday to own property at this place. This city is much pricey than Los Angeles, I can tell.
Driving throughout these streets I saw the Transamerica Pyramid building. I was surprised to learn that this building was one of the pioneers in green building back in the late 1960’s the Transamerica building was commissioned by Transamerica CEO John Beckett, with the claim that he wished to allow natural light and fresh air to filter down to the street below. This building has 850 ft and contains 48 floors of retail and office space. Although the tower no longer serves as the Transamerica Corporation headquarters, it still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company’s logo. The building was designed by architect William Pereira.

Golden Gate Bridge on windy day
Driving down the street I spotted the early skyscrapers in town. I saw some of the historic buildings but not that many. Later I recall that most of the historic buildings were destroyed by the fire of early 1900’s. At 5:12 Am. of April 18, 1906 an earthquake estimated between 7.8 and 8.3 that lasted for about 45 seconds on the Ritcher scale, which wasn’t invented until 1935. The earthquake broke gas pipelines, water supply and waste lines which later ignited several fires in the city. The early fire fighters even used ocean water pumped to several locations, but the efforts were not enough to contain the fire that lasted for 72 hours. In the aftermath most of the buildings were severely damaged and they were required to be demolished and replaced.
Then we went for a late lunch or early dinner (lunner?) and we headed to Chinatown San Francisco. What surprises me is the fact that all the major old cities (that I’ve visited) with Chinese migration have these common early Chinese settlements. For instance, the ones in Lima-Peru, Los Angeles-California, or San Francisco-California have distinctive common characteristics. The one in South America in Lima city has a blend of the local culture and food, and the ones in California (north and south) have a more authentic characteristic.
Palace of Fine Arts - San Francisco
Our final destination was the Castro Area, this is the place where all the Gay right movement started. I’ve been a few times in this city but I never found the place where Harvey Milk started it all. I believe things happen for a reason, we were just driving around Castro street looking for a place to park, (parking was a bit challenging here too) when all of the sudden I found a space who somebody seemed to be holding for me (he left just until I approached) immediately after getting out of the car, I recognized the front store where we just parked (yes, I watched the movie Milk, the story of Harvey B. Milk), this was the place that Harvey Milk rented back in the early 1970’s as his Camera shop and where people always seemed to gather to discuss the latest new, problems and concerns. Its front windows turned into a community bulletin board, covered with announcements of upcoming civil rights demonstrations, protests, meetings, and events. Harvey became “the major of Castro Street”. Nowadays it serves as the Human Rights Campaign, an Action Center & Store. If you don’t know his story, I recommend the movie.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 (after 3 failed attempts). This is the spirit that I always embrace when I encourage people to pursue their dreams and push them to go in to their own business, no matter how many times you fail, all you need is to make some adjustments and try again.
Lombard St. Crookedest St in America
We walked around Castro Street, interacting with this place, looking into the shops, the stores, the bars, I’m based in Los Angeles so I was pretty curious about the possible similarities with West Hollywood (the Los Angeles Gay center), and I found that they’re none, its place has its own unique character. Then we walked to the wine-cheese-coffee shop store where we sampled some wine, cheese and crackers, I would be happy living nears this place!
The sunset just start, and it was getting dark, and after dropping my friend at the San Francisco airport we headed to Los Angeles. It was cold and dark outside, its time to go home and I can just wonder when I will be back to this wonderful city.
Chinese lamp at Chinatown San Francisco
Transamerica building in downtown San Francisco

Castro Street
Castro area

Castro area
Human Rights Campain Store

Special thanks to Lira Luis, Merwin Videña, Robert Ziemlak for making this article blog possible.