Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Music soothes the savage Hippo

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:30 PM 0 comments Links to this post
There arent many classical pieces of music that I like but the ones I like, I like them with a passion. The accoustic in the symphony hall in SF isnt the best but hearing your passion played live is unmatchable. Years ago I heard my beloved Tchaikovsky's 2 concertos. Last month finally I got to listen to my other beloved, Mendelssohn's violin concerto in E Minor. While I was disappointed at both soloists who played Tchaikovsky's piano and violin concertos, Felix's concerto was played by the young Armenian Sergey Khachatryan whose absolute absorption into Felix's piece gave total justice to the creator. Felix's piece is something out of this world. What I like about it is the fact that it is not like any other concerto. It starts with an immediate entrance of the violin without any orchestral opening ritornello. It has an immediate urgency that demands your total devotion. Forget the rest of the concertos which open with confusing, often unrelated melodies that are never repeated. This one got an "urgent quality with an elegaic sentiment of surprising intensity" (The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, 2007). While Tchaikovsky's violin piece conjures up a desperate longing or a 'saudade' for distant shores, violently out of control but soothed by intermitten passivity and calm, Mendelssohn's is an urgent continuous crescendo that builds and builds, accumulating energy without interruption (The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, 2007). "The soloist seems to play twice as many notes as any pair of other instruments combined. This movement is structured in a 'question and answer' form, with the violin and orchestra trading lively ideas and challenges back and forth with ever-mounting glee until they finally marshal their forces to agree on an ending statement that leaves the audience clamoring for more" ( Geoff Kuenning, 1994). Ah, well said, it reflects my total sentiment for this piece.

felixsergey
Felix MendelssohnSergey Khachatryan

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I still itch

Posted by Hippo Bean at 7:28 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So this is days later and I'm looking at my arm still with 2 bruises although the point of puncture is no longer visible (thanks to neosporin!). The bruises reminded me of the pain when the fat needle went in. It wasnt so much of the pain from the actual puncture but because the whole ordeal took so long. I could feel the blood draining from my arm. Six tubes! I must have looked like I was gonna faint as the nurse kept asking if I were OK. I did feel a bit lightheaded. So I decided to skip the freeway and went city roads, and drove nice and slow to work. I mean, I dont weight that much after all and being a tiny thing, how could the doctor order 6 tests at the same time? "I think it's just dry skin and the tests would come out negative, but just in case". 'Just in case' will cost me hundreds of dollars out of pocket. Last time I had these blood tests, the insurance only paid 13 cents per lab work. Yes, I have lousy insurance and worse yet, I have a lousy doctor. Doctors rush through your session after making you wait for an eternity for them to show up. And she seems to be getting old and acquiring lousy memory. She stepped out so I could undress and put on the gown. When she came back, she asked what she already performed. I came to see my doctor for the itch all over my body that never seemed to stop no matter what I did. My doctor listened to my heart, my back and checked my stomach (nice and soft, oh, yeah, she is getting fat). When she returned, she forgot what she had already checked. So now the test results were all negative, as expected, and now what? She didnt even suggest a lotion to sooth the dryness (if that's her conclusion) or recommend a dermatologist. After the time wasted, pain suffered and payments that will surely come very soon, I still itch. So there's nothing else left to do but buy a new hippo set.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Missions Closure and First

Posted by Hippo Bean at 8:08 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I didnt notice the poster of the Afgani girl from National Geographic until someone pointed it out. I was admiring the brilliant colors offered from the curtains hanging on the tent ceiling. I was mesmerized by the green light when someone said the girl had green eyes. Harry Potter also had green eyes! I was momentarily distracted and got confused which poster was the girl from NG and which was the one of her 20 years later. That was also when my legs started to cramp from being shoved under the low table. Just exactly how did they eat like this? It didnt seem to help digestion much sitting like this.

We were at Salang Pass in Fremont, celebrating our Mission Possible and Accomplished and A and T's first anniversary. The food was excellent and the Ugly Duckling Cabernet I bought was actually rather strong and good. But I didnt much care for the ambience of the Afgani restaurant nor the service which was just passable. When we guessed at the significance of the year 1919 painted on the wall painting with what resembled the Arc De Triumph, I figured it must be from some independence. Independence from the Brits as it turned out. The Hindu Kush behind the arch paid a very high insult to the real mountain range. The real Kush is so imposing, sprawling, and jaggerdy that the mere round dome on the painting nowhere resembled it. Some day the Hippo will go there to pay homage, I secretly promised.

The day had been perfect for a Missions closure. Warm, clear sky. Our first stop was Santa Cruz. The mission church replica was perched on a little square with the modern day cathedral next door. Behind and tucked away was the only remnant of the original mission buildings, now a state park. We, experienced Missionaries by now, werent surprised not even saddened that not much of the original stuff was left. However, the new cathedral, dedicated to the apostles, was gorgeous inside, with the same pastel colors and drawing motifs, so characteristics of the missions. The holy water came cascading down into a pool that reminded me of the jacuzzi at home. I felt strange that I could dip my entire arm inside the pool of holy water. What a new way to offer the sacred water. At the entrance, a priest (I think) or the pastor himself greeted us and shook our hands. We were offered a calendar depicting the apostles.

Next we came on the Santa Clara University campus to see the mission. I dont seem to have much recollection of this mission nor did I like it much. The church didnt have much in term of the exquisite beauty or even the signatures of the missions. Once again we encountered an very old and long tree which roots traveled and curled above us in the courtyard. Tomaso spotted the observatory. There are 3 telescopes it seemed as there were 3 domes. One on a tiny building close by, fit for a hobbit it seemed.

After a refreshing Jamba juice stop, we came upon the San Jose Mission located in Fremont. The newly rebuilt facade was commanding. The clean whitewash was brilliantly reflecting the afternoon sun. The bell tower and the church facade is all in one. Very unusual. The tile roof and side buttresses made the structure look historic. The paintings inside the church were magnificent. Again mission motifs and pastels everywhere, including the organ. Arches, curtains and columns were all painted in and one wondered, if such talents existed, what had happened to the poor souls who possessed them? The adjacent cemetery reminisced of old mission communities.

From all 21 missions that we're visited, Purissima still remains my favorite. Perhaps because it was so well preserved and the entire complex was still intact. Others like San Miguel, made one wonder if after restoration, it would still look anywhere close to what it was originally. I understand it's hard to preserve history while our present lives beg us to forever keep advancing. But visiting the past from time to time reminds us where we came from and what we did , the sins of the past, the forgotten moments of happiness and the eternal longing for a better tomorrow, promises unfulfilled, dreams unrealized, and tormented souls who wont let us rest until we take the lessons from the past to path way for a better future.

Salang Pass


Santa Cruz Mission


Santa Clara Mission


San Jose Mission

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

if you evite, they will come

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Call the Hippo La Maxima Lamo. One guy declined and one even took his name off the list. I was thinking it might be like the other times when the Hippo sent out evites and no one would show. To her astonishment, not only all showed with their own pumpkins on hand, everyone came wearing a hat and one even showed up wearing a wig. And thus, Hippo's BYO pumpkin hats and wigs extravaganza not only occurred, it was enjoyed by all. They carved their pumpkins, got their hands in pumpkin juice, the Hippo took photographs, made fun of her guests creative art and they all ate our BBQ of Crying Tiger steak (after a few attempts, T was able to get the fire going on the BBQ grill, he's getting more practice these days!). In the evening, we illuminated and admired our artwork. Then we took turns wearing the purple wig for a few laughs. That was, mind you, after we downed the Riesling, the Pinot Noir and the Merlot. In Hippo's terms, it wasnt a bad party.

Watch the self-running slideshow (unblock your popups).

A few selected pictures:

pumpkin

pumpkin

pumpkin

pumpkin

pumpkin

pumpkin

pumpkin


pumpkin pumpkin
Snowie got his
pumpkin carved too
And illuminated

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Lamassu, Goose and NY downpour

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:01 PM 2 comments Links to this post
After admiring some statues in the Greek and Roman Art gallery, I wondered where the lamassu were located. Checking the map, I went upstairs to the Ancient Near East gallery and when I turned around the corner, the pair stood there facing me with back flood lights. I froze on the spot. After seeing the 2 pairs of the 5 legged winged bulls at the British Museum, I had wanted to see more of them and didnt even know the Met had a pair. They were gifts from Rockefeller (where did he get them from?). The stone reliefs adorned the entire room. I couldnt believe the museum completely recreated the audience hall in the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, with the colossal figures standing as guardians. The museum guard just thought I was nuts photographing each panel. I spent a good half hour sitting in front of the lamassu. I first learned of them in the archaeology class I took at Stanford right before my sabbatical and had made myself a promise to see them at the BM. And now I saw them at the Met and I wondered if they were the exact ones I saw before.

The decision to do the Met in NY came to me one afternoon while surfing the net. It had proven to be a wise one because we arrived back in NYC in fog and cloudy skies. The rest of the group got soaked through taking the ferry to Staton island to see the Lady. About mid day it started to rain. The downpour didnt stop until late in the afternoon. My camera batteries were dead, so I ventured out to 86th st to try to get new ones. Just then it started to rain. Luckily I spotted a grocery store and went in to get some food and batteries. I ate my cold chicken sheltered under the canopy of an apartment building. I havent seen summer rain (or was it early autumn rain?) in a long time. It was refreshing and came down in straight sheets. I miss this kind of rain very very much and so was quite happy standing underneath it. Back at the Met I went in to the Egyptian gallery and thought it was even bigger than the one in BM, and certainly have more displays than the Cairo museum. This is very very sad as I believe ancient artifacts should belong where they were found, but I guess it is very very good for us because not many can journey afar to see these things.

I can upon the temple of Dendur in a comparatively quiet atrium. So I decided to phone the Goose and arrange to meet. Then still unwilling to leave the museum, I walked through the arms and armor gallery, the american decorative art, and the European sculpture and decorative art, and ventured back upstairs to see the paintings. Oh, my favorite Bruegel's Harvesters , Poussin's the rape of the Sabine women, lots of early Goya, and many others I know nothing about.

Visiting the Met was heaven for me. But what toped it even more was the figure dressed in black, hurrying towards the Met entrance. This time the Hippo was no longer scared. She had met the Goose once before so she knew what to expect. My feet were screaming to take a break (I've been on my feet since 5AM!) so I had wanted to find a place to sit and drink something and chat. We walked a few blocks until we found a Starbucks but there was no empty tables. So we decided to do the park. While coming upon the Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis reservoir, Goose reached inside his bag and pulled out a camera. I knew he spotted a fantastic view for a picture, as I also did.
We ended up sitting on a bench in Central Park with romantic views of the uptown buildings. I never knew Central Park could be so gorgeous in a rainy day and the buildings could offer such a dramatic backdrop.

Goose wasnt too talkative, perhaps just shy, or perhaps still not entirely comfortable with the Hippo, and I knew I was boring him, but I was just happy to see him again, afterall he did make a pilgrimage to the Hippo's bathplace! It was simply soothing to watch him talk, moving his marvelous hands in symphony with his low polite voice. This guy is intelligent beyond imagination and I felt minute in his presence.

Subway again back down, this time just to Times Square as I thought the rest of the group was. But they were waiting in line to get to the top of the Empire State building, so I had to walk the 10 blocks to get there, checking out the shops on 8th Ave, along the way. We dined at a Japanese bbq yourself place in Greenwich and then back to our hotel with marvelous views of the Hudson and Jersey city!

The next morning we briefly checked out the Irish famine memorial across the street and then went inside to check the remodeled World Finance Center, completely redone with marble floor and staircase. A huge window offered a direct view of what used to be ground zero. Years before we had to get a ticket and wait in line to see it. Now, I not only walked by and around it, we drove by as if it's just another construction site. On our way to the airport, we crossed the Brooklyn bridge, my first time.

As we promised every time we left NYC, we would come back soon just to do shopping. Last time I left here I was continuing on the Iceland. This time, I miss Manhattan like I've never had before.

lamassu
 Lamassu at the Met



G & H
 Goose and Hippo
 at Central Park



brooklyn Bridge
 On the Brooklyn Bridge

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Relaxing at sea

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Every time I did the grapevine and started stepping to my right, the girl next to me ran into me because she was moving the wrong direction. We did the entire number without her learning which side was her right side! Today I had my first line dance class onboard. With all day at sea and nothing else to do, I thought I should try some dancing. I couldnt believe I actually like it but it sure tortured my poor feet. I like dancing. Only wish I was less shy and with more opportunity to practice it. I woke up in a warm but foggy day. Outside the ship windows was nothing but a grey white sheet. Our luck finally ran out. We spent the afternoon playing mahjon out on deck, wrapped in blankets, eating Chinese clear noodles and drinking our last complimentary bottle of Dos Equis. We also had cookies and milk, delivered by a poor soul whose job was to walk around deck wearing a drum of milk! I had wanted to disco after dinner, but I had to pack so I mostly remained on our private balcony to savor the last minutes of night sailing on our last day on the cruise. I sure will miss the suite luxury, the outdoors giant movie, arriving at a different port each morning, sleeping on the comfortable bed with the warm duvet and all that free food (well, not really free, just, let say pre-paid). I didnt want to think about the new school quarter which will promptly commence when I get back, nor the survey that might or might not have launched by the time I return to work (as it turned out, it wasnt launched). Last vacation of the year, and it has been a good cruise. Tomorrow, hopefully the Met and a glimpse of the Goose and listen to his melodic voice and a peek at his handsome hands!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nova Scotia

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When I first set foot on Nova Scotia, the band at the port quit the Celt music and a massive confusion of tourists crowded the area looking for their buses. We were the last ones to board the bus but lucky for me, I was put on the front seat next to the guide on kilts. I've always found men wearing kilts rather idiotic looking. The day was once again gorgeously pleasant. The drive to Peggy's Cove was lined with beautiful trees, many with red leaves. Gradually as we approach the coast,
deciduous gave way to coniferous until there's nothing but a few bushes and then simply white granite. Peggy is a very tiny town which tourists outnumbered the local population. The place was filled with tour buses and herds of people. The famous lighthouse is the famous post office. I had to snail mail something from there and so I bought and mailed Tomaso a postie. The sea was calm, not a single wave, and hopping around on the granite was the only way to get away from the crowd. On our way back, the guide on kilts told us the heroic stories of rescues and recovers and the generosity of the Haligonians. Because of the geographic location, this area was bound for air and naval mishaps and the local fishermen and towns people are used to giving a helping hand, which included the poor American flights passengers on 9-11. We passed by the memorial of Swiss Air 11. And there's the Titanic museum in town. The stories made my eyes watered. It was hard to think about these events on a sunny glorious day like today.

Back in town, we walked up to the Citadel but to my great disappointment, there's really nothing up there except a little museum of army paraphernalia. M had reserved afternoon tea here but was cancelled. Coming down the steep hill we were looking for a outdoor place for lunch but ended up having steak and kidney pie and local beer at an Irish pub (that was really great, lunching at an Irish pub in Nova Scotia!).

I missed the evening formal dinner because I felt really sick. Or perhaps my body was telling me to skip it altogether since it couldnt stand anything 'formal'. With an entire week of all you can eat food, my body was sick of food and protested. I simply slept. About 11PM, the captain's voice came on to ask for blood donors. A passenger needed blood critically. A few minutes later the stateroom phone rang. Mom asked if I were OK. I told her the critically ill passenger wasnt me! Later at 3AM, the ship stopped and anchored. I fell back to sleep. The next morning we've learned that the Canadian coast guard came, collected the sick passenger and safely delivered him back to a hospital in Halifax. He got his blood and was doing fine.

I couldnt say if I liked Halifax or not. We havent really seen much of the town, but both M and A really enjoyed Peggy's Cove and had secretly selected a house there.

halifax
 Peggy's Cove


halifax
 Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oldest city in Canada

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post
It is over 10 years since I've last been in Canada. Never been on the eastern Canadian coast. Since Boston I've noticed we kept docking on the Starboard side! Hm, I guess nowadays we no longer conform with traditional practices. Arriving at St John, New Brunswick, we got local music playing, roses for the women and pins for the gentlemen. We boarded our local bus and had a tour of the city guided by a lady in historical New England outfit (she even carries a basket!) So much history here and so British! Considered the Canadian oldest city, this bilingual city is well planned with a walkway from the museum by the water to up the hill to the city market, so one doesnt have to brave the cold in the harsh winters. We stopped at the Reversed Falls but it was low tide and we didnt witness the river running upstream! The bay of Fundy was quite dramatic, so narrow at one end where it collides with the St John river. I had wanted to see it but as always the timing wasnt right. Our local bus drove by the residential area where the houses are more beautiful and very New Englandish than I've ever seen anywhere else, a 5 star B&B where the stars of the Lesser God stayed while filming the movie, a house whose young couple went to England for their honeymoon and ordered carpets to be delivered to their new home, and while they made it back safely, the carpets never did because they sailed with the Titanic. The final stop was the Martello Tower, petit, rond et ne pas haut but the view from there was magnificent. The day was clear, warm and skyblue. The street signs are in both French and English. We had cheap fish n chips at a fast food inside the mall, and walked around the city proper to take picture of the church steeples. I've tried to imagine what the city looked like in the old days with the early settlers and what made them stay so loyal to the Crown. I like St John very much indeed.

We made it back the ship just in time for afternoon tea. The tea was simply Lipton but the pastries and little sandwiches were delicious. Just wish they had better tea! So far we only had mediocre food. Neither the restaurants nor the buffets had any grand food. We havent tried the other 'pay' restaurants because honestly, I had wanted to boycott them - why should we pay to eat at special restaurants on a cruise?

In the evening, believe it or not, we played mahjon in our cab ... I mean, our stateroom. Tomorrow to Nova Scotia!

St John
 Reversed Falls


St John
 St John river
 running into the Bay of Fundy


St John
 St John, New Brunswick

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Acadia & Bar Harbor

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When I was working at Vicinity, I did a Business Search for Ford that included all the national parks east of the Mississipi and Acadia was one of them. Now finally the Hippo got a chance to visit it. The leaves on the trees began to change colors and the park looked very autumny. So different from the parks on the west. Atop Cadillac Mtn we could see our ship and the tiny town of Bar Harbor and its islands. The rugged coast of northern Maine was spectacular and the Atlantic blue as the Pacific never was. The ocean here is warm. Before going back to the ship, we had seafood bisque and lobster roll for lunch. M and I had a 4 o'clock massage at the Lotus Spa onboard. I had a badly needed foot and scalp massage. I nearly fell asleep when my masseuse gently rang the bell signaling the end of my session. The scalp massage did wonders to my head as my never ending headache was suddenly gone. But my hair got pushed back so forcibly that I ended up with an afro!

Once again we were on deck observing the ship turning and sailing out of the harbor. I could never get enough of this view. This was Hippo's premiere experience of Maine. Tonight movie was Underworld Evolution, while M went to line dancing. Tomorrow maritime provinces!

bar harbor
 Bar Harbor and our ship
  from top of Cadillac Mtn



bar harbor
 Moon over an island
  near Bar Harbor

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cold cloudy Boston

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Boston was freezing with cloudy skies. All of us had been here before but M insisted we do the Commons so we walked in the wind and cold, traversing downtown. Crossing the public gardens, we reached the trendy Newberry st and I got a little excited at the sights of the shops. We found a Thai place for lunch. M and A had wanted to eat the Thai place at Harvard that they enjoyed so much the previous time they were here, but since we've all been here before, we didnt bother crossing the river. From all places, we bought lots of stuff at HM because there's no sales tax. We spent the rest of the time at Quincy Market. Both M and A really like Boston but I've never developed a special love for the city. In 2000 I was in Lebanon, NH, sent by Vicinity to train new developers. The closest airport was Logan and so I spent a day here. Did all the touristy stuff including walking the Freedom Trail. Dunno. Just never quite fell in love with the city.

While the ship pulled away from the Boston harbor, the sun set vividly behind downtown and we were on deck admiring the glorious view. In the evening we stayed in our lovely suite and watched Syriana. It was rather confusing at first but at the end I finally understood the movie and liked it.

boston gardens
 Butterflies in the Boston Gardens


sunset over boston
 Sunset over downtown Boston

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New England summer cottages

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post
When the ship dropped anchor, it woke me up. The view of the Newport fort welcomed the Hippo to Newport, Rhode Island. It was only 7am but sailing boats already crowded the harbor. The tender to shore was 15 minutes long. The sky was clear and blue, little wind and temperature very pleasant. The tour to the Vanderbilts summer cottage was delayed for apparently no reason but when we finally got on our way the pretty town took my annoyance away. Over here is St Mary's where Jacqueline and JFK's wedding took place, over there is the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, and when our bus turned on to the Bellevue Avenue, the world of grandeur appeared. What we call mansions are simply considered summer houses to these rich people. When we finally stopped at the Breakers, the 'cottage' was grand indeed but it lack character and uniqueness. The building itself from the outside did not appeal to the Hippo. No photography was allowed indoors so I grumpily put my camera away. Everything here is 22 carat gold, each bedroom with its own dressing room and bath. The grand hall had a gorgeous chandelier but lacked a grand staircase. The music room which built entirely on its own and transported to the house when finished was not really 'musical' enough to my taste. But the dinning and billiard rooms are fantastic. From all the rooms we've visited, I like Gladys' room the best, on the east corner. It contains a photograph of Gladys and Count Laszlo Szechenyi of Hungary (quite a handsome dude), and some of Gladys' sculptures. The front porch offered an immense view of the blue sea. I cant begin to describe the place. It was grander than Hearst castle and it's only considered a summer cottage, imagine the Vanderbilt's residence! The tour was badly organized so we were offered a free book of the Breakers which can only mean stealing pictures. Because we were late (el capitan had trouble dropping the anchor!) the visit to the Marble house was canceled. I was mad because that's the one I really wanted to see.

Back at the harbor the line back to the ship was so long we decided to paint town. M bought a handbag in one of the cute little shops by the water. In the afternoon, we sat on our private balcony to admire the site of Newport. In the evening after the first formal dinner (I hated the formal anything!), we watched Spidey III on the sundeck, 'movies under the stars' but there were no stars tonight. We sat on lounge chairs with blankets and we had complimentary beer, pizza and popcorn. We were f*cking freezing on the open deck watching the movie on the giant screen. A summer cruise would had been ideal but what a grand idea to have a giant movie outdoors.

Boston tomorrow and we have a date with the Thai restaurant at Harvard Square.

newport
 Newport harbor

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Red Eye

Posted by Hippo Bean at 1:58 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Usually the 4.5 hrs flight to JFK was a breeze but this time the RedEye flight left me tired the entire day as I couldnt sleep nor be comfortable on the plane (hate American airlines, domestic, no food!). After a bit of confusion, we finally learned to take the airtrain to terminal 4 where we could sit down at the food court for McDonald's hot cakes and sausages. Taxi'in from JFK to the Brooklyn P took about 45 minutes. The old neighborhoods with brick block buildings of Brooklyn reminisce the gang movies on TV. This was the ride I most enjoyed, every time flying in to JFK. When the Manhattan skyscrapers started displaying themselves in the clear day, once again I couldnt help but to compare the affluent, cultured and upscale living of NYC to the poor neighborhoods of Brooklyn. They seem to be a world apart. The taxi made a turn to the left and I missed Flushing Meadows where only 2 weeks ago Justine was once again crowned champion.

Getting on board a cruise ship nowadays mean walking through metal detectors and standing in endless lines. The port was a zoo! Massive confusion as everyone crowded in front of the never arriving elevators, trying to get to their staterooms (which once upon a time, used to be called cabins). But we got upgraded to a suite and what more, we're at the very aft of the ship with a double balcony with endless views, an enormous marble bathroom and great complimentary amenities which included free internet, DVD's and priority everything... well just about. The complimentary champagne only made my headache worst, so it was early bed for me. Cant wait to explore the ship which is enormous and looks interesting enough. Tomorrow Hippo's initiation to Rhode Island. The suite is fantastic! The bed very comfy with a light warm down duvet. No neighbors and I love the views from the end of the ship. Quiet! I am ready for New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces!

Crown Princess
 Our ship the Crown Princess

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Commitment

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:39 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Though a bit feverish and with a nagging headache, I stuck to my 'mission' and drove the 144 miles to the San Antonio de Padua Mission, located inside the Hunter Liggett military Reservation near Jolon. Twice we missed this mission (once was sabotaged!) and so this time, come fever or headache, I was committed. The weather was cool up on the San Carlos hills and cooler still in Aptos when we picked up Tomaso. On the way, we stopped at Soledad since he hasnt seen it. By the time we arrived at main gate of the military base and showed our papers, the sun was glazing. The mission was faithfully preserved and I particularly liked the stunning brick facade. The fact that the mission itself is now inside a military compound added to its mystery. Our original plan was to double back to visit San Juan Bautista and then back down the coast to do Carmel. But since all of us had been to Bautista already, we've decided to take the coastal route to Carmel. But the first order of business was to feed ourselves since we could find few places to eat on Hi 1. There were 1 or 2 places open to the public in Hunter Liggett. We chose the snack bar. On the way we stopped by the Hacienda guest lodge, once owned by William Randolph Hearst, designed by "Castle" architect Julia Morgan, as his hunting lodge. The hotel was still open to the public (we checked out a few rooms since the maids were cleaning them and the doors were open) but the restaurant had been closed for a while (one wonders where the guests get food then!). The base was mostly quiet (it has very nice buildings!) but we ran into some rowdy military kids in the cafeteria. After a lousy meal (we had pizza that was simply OK), we decided to take the freeway to Carmel since it was already getting late and we want to reach the mission before it closes. So the drive back was not scenic. But we have many more chances to do scenic routes later. We got to Carmel a few minutes before 5, and the Sunday afternoon mass was just getting started. The museum was already closed but the mission and cathedral were still open. We browsed the area, discovering a very unique painting on a wall inside the church depicting a cross with a spear and a lance holding Christ's vinegar sponge, with the words 'Alabemos Santo Dios, loque estan y seran loque somos'. Nowhere had we seen a cross depicted with these 2 things. Later in the cemetery we witnessed a cross exactly like that. The Carmel mission had a most serene courtyard, uncluttered, and with a fountain in the middle. One of the buildings had a nice whitewash that Tomaso had wanted for his house. The orange adobe color was simply stunning in the near dusk sun. Back at Aptos we had dinner by the beach and watched a huge bonfire. Thus ended a long and exhausted day for me, but got 2 more missions under my belt. Four more to go to complete the collection, and then I can rest.

padua
San Antonio de Padua Mission


carmel
San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Offsite

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Perhaps it was a good thing I didnt make it to the offsite last year. My skirt didnt really fit well. This year we went to Nestldown, a retreat nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains, hidden on Hi 17, with tall redwoods, fruit trees, lush gardens, ponds, an unique rustic elegance that started as a private retreat for disabled and disadvantaged children. We had a gorgeous lunch outdoors with fresh homemade pies, and spent the afternoon meeting inside the rustic barn. I liked the place and we had fun, a day out of the office. And each one of us got a pair of lounge chairs for this year's gift. One of the perks for working in a small company. The company's visions and plans had changed and I hope I can hang on long enough before being forced into oblivion. The time to move on is nearing but I hate to leave Alpha Detail. I'm not really learning anything but the fun is always there.

nestldown
 Inside the children's cottage


nestldown
 The children's cottage


nestldown
 The barn ceiling


nestldown
 The loft


nestldown
 Loft

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

a little reluctant farewell to paradise

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
J told me about the secluded and uncrowded sandy beach at the end of highway 50. We drove there this morning and after a half hour on the unpaved, rocky and bumpy road, we arrived at the most gorgeous beach on the garden island. The water was smooth and blue and the sand white as sugar. The view on the road to the beach and on the beach was spectacular. The sun shone brilliantly and forcefully on us so we couldnt stay on the beach for too long. Back in Waimea we had shaved ice at Jo Jo's again. Back at the condo my headache attacked me once more so I just spent the last day relaxing and enjoying the resort.

The drive to the Lihue airport was traffic filled. I like Kauai. Kauai is a beautiful island and the red dirt and sugarcanes reminded me of Maui. But it doesnt tug my heart like the other 2 islands. I guess nothing can surpass the fond memories I had in Maui and in the Big Island. However, on the morning when I left, I did feel a bit reluctant to leave. I took one last look at the ocean, the coconut trees and the distant palis and wondered if and when I would be back. I have no hurry to be back to this island but if I do, I know there are things left undone. I'd like to take the helicopter ride to see the famous cliffs and waterfalls. I'd like to hike the entire 11 miles of Kalalau trail. I like to take more time sitting on the Polihale beach and perhaps dip into that blue and calm water and contemplate the low hills. I like to spend time in the Waimea cottages and have a truly relaxing vacation, instead of the crowdy and kids filled resort at the Kiahuna Plantations. So perhaps I do have a reason to come back.

beach at polihale
 The beach at Polihale State Park

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meeting classmate in paradise

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The view from the Pu'u o Kila Lookout at the end of the Waimea Canyon Drive was exactly like the ones in the guidebooks. We even saw boats going by and choppers flying that look like tiny birds. Just like what the guidebooks said. Steve, my online classmate, and his wife Cathy were good site seeing companions and high spirited hikers. We hiked some of the way of the Pihea trail from the Pu'u o Kila Lookout where we got different perspectives of the same palis and canyon. Steve and I had started the OTL program last Fall and chance has it that we're both in Kauai at the same time, so there's nothing left to do but to meet. So we did the Waimea Canyon together. They are fun people and we joked a lot, just like we did in the online classes. Never a dull moment with this guy!

In the afternoon, I checked in to the Kiahuna Plantations and to my disappointment I got a ground floor unit. There's no AC, so I had to leave the shutters open even during the night which left me little privacy, a little unsafe and with lots of noise. But the unit offered a direct view of the ocean so all wasnt lost. The private beach in the complex was sandy and nice but crowded. I sat there to listen to my iPod and had a tranquil moment. Probably the best moment thus far on the island.

Waimea Canyon
 View of the pali
 from the Pu'u o Kila Outlook
 at the end of the Waimea
 Canyon Drive

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

More paradise in the garden island

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
First it was M calling and then the lawn blower woke me up again. I've tried to ignore it because I stayed up most of the night listening to Harry Potter and I wanted to sleep more. Then the blower got closer and closer and I realized the noise came from the open window right behind my bed (this place is entirely open, but isnt all places in Hawaii?). Then L came to wake me up. The cleaners are here and we must leave the house for a couple of hours. We had a hasty breakfast and went down to the rocky Poipu beach. I didnt get to swim because it was too rocky and I couldnt negociate the slippery bottom. I simply dont understand what this beach is so famous. I hated it! But it's a good place to snorkel because there were tons of tiny fish and crab.

In the afternoon, we drove to Waimea to check out L and B's house and I liked it. Very tiny but the crown molding and hardwood floors were very elegant and the place was very cute. In my mind, I completely re-decorated the place. There in Waimea, I had very first shaved ice. Mm, yum yum good!

Wanting more beach, we went for a quick dip in the Salt Pond and I loved that beach. Very sandy with a rocky area with huge splashes. In the evening the Kiahuna shopping mall has free hula dance show. Coming back was pitch dark and we almost couldnt find the PT Cruiser. More Harry Potter at night before sleep.

Yesterday was the north shore. We stopped by the lighthouse in Kilauea on the way, and stopped at the Princeville resort with the gorgeous lobby and view of the pali coast. Next we checked out Hanalei resort. Then we drove till the end of the road and hiked up the Kalalau trail for about a mile. It was getting late so we returned. I had wanted to do the entire trail so I get to see the palis up close. But we didnt have enough time nor the equipment for the whole 11 miles. Ah well, I must leave something to do the next time I come here. Right?

Playing phone tags with Steve all day. They had arrived and we arranged to meet tomorrow in Waimea. It would be nice to finally meet him and his wife f2f after talking with him for almost a year. He'll be the first online classmate that I'd meet. It will be fun. I just hope I behave!

Napali coast from Princeville
 View of Napali coast
 from the Princeville Resort

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Not again ... in paradise

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 1 comments Links to this post
I knew something was wrong when the take off time had passed but the plane was still at the gate. When the pilot announced a passenger found a crack on one of the windows, I said to myself 'not again!'. Last year's fiasco with Hawaiian was what brought me here today to fly again to paradise. I dont much feel like spending another night in the dumpy Honolulu airport hotel, nor wasting a day waiting at the airport instead of spending it in the garden island. Luckily, after a 1.5 hour delay they decided it was safe enough for us to fly. With only 20 minutes to spare, I ran most of the way to catch the wikiwiki to the inter-island terminal to catch my flight to Kauai. Once arrived, my fear was confirmed. Our lugagge didnt make it. Then a red PT Cruiser pulled up and someone called 'Hippo'. My lugagge did arrive on the next flight and so everything was cool and welcome to paradise once more, finally Hippo's first visit to the island I've only been once before for half an hour.

Somehow I didnt get a feeling that this island was small. One thing for sure is that there's really no point of reference, just mountains everywhere and lots of green. The earth was specially rich here, very orange.

Uncle Chet and aunt Tish's house, resting on about 3000 sq ft in the Kiahuna golf course was a castle. Floor completely in Italian terracotta tiles, a lanai separates the 2 bedrooms giving each the privacy it deserves, full bath inside each. 48 inches flatscreen in the entertainment room, complete with a 24" iMac - free lightning speed internet! Now I have no excuse not to keep with my classes! The open floor kitchen and living area is what one would die for. I've never been in a house that has such a perfect layout for entertainment. The living area is huge with each side with a door that opens to the outside. The back side faces a green yard with just enough fruit and palm trees and a fish pound and it's completely open to the cool the house off. The kitchen has a breakfast nook that I just love to sit there and enjoy the outside green. It takes about half the width of the house, with a center island for cooking, full of every appliance that a kitchen needs. These people really know how to live in paradise! Paradise indeed!

B made us a smoothie of passion fruit, guava, lilikoi, and banana, and we had sushi and vietnamese noodles for dinner, while watching 'Keeping Mum (Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Swayze and Maggie Smith - a British black comedy that was actually very good), the old British Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy series, and Penn and Teller's Circumcison theory. Hm ... I stick to my theory ... many more DVD's to come in the week ... Netflix just keep arriving!

In pitch dark (Felix was right!), we strolled in the neighboorhood, occasionally turning on our flashlights to avoid toads that leap and land on our pathway waiting to be squashed!

I was gonna start the Harry Potter audio series but it was way past midnight (past 3AM) and I was bone tired. I just crashed. Welcome to paradise Hippo! Once more!

hippo in Chet's house Poipu
 Hippo in uncle Chet and
 aunt Tish's house in Poipu

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sweet 14

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:07 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I dunno these things, but maybe I'm getting old but I found watching these very old videos brought back the time when I was 14. I was a huge pop music fanatic and I just seem to have an affinity with these slightly obscure Scottish bands that not many Americans like. They werent even all that popular back home back then, but I simply loved them. I remember listening closely to my radio-cassette deck and waiting for my favorite tunes so I could tape them. Often the announcer talked over the beginning of the song, so most of my recordings were without the first part. I used to save every penny just to buy the books that contain the lyrics. I couldnt quite read them because I didnt know English back then. Years later I've discovered most of the lyrics were wrong and probably composed by someone who knew a bit of English and who just listened to the songs and wrote the words out. I still have some of my old tapes. Later, I saved all my allowances just to get a 45 or the complete LP. Many more years later, I threw my vinyl records away. Now I regret that. I bought CD's instead. And now I found my music online. It is strange that I work with technology every day but I'm not a big fan. Deep down I dont believe in it, even though right now, technology brought my teen years back. Strange how these songs still make me happy and young. They are as fresh and sweet as when I first heard them from the radio, more than 30 years ago! I still dream the dreams these songs made me dream. I'm still as naive, simple, and clueless as I was when I first heard them.


http://youtube.com/watch?v=D33DZkuBdzQ

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

mission possible

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:07 PM 1 comments Links to this post
The cool breeze turned out to be from an open window by my bed. None of us remembered opening any windows. The poor navigator had opened it for us the day before when he visited our suite. While we complained it was a bit cold, I remembered he turned the heater on and the whole room smelled like burning charcoal. Then he noticed the floor beneath the air conditioning unit was wet because the water from the unit spilled inside the room instead of outside. He called the hotel to let them know. Now, just a minute, whose room was it? Last time I've heard, this room was still ours! We had continental breakfast at the club house while, once again, T and A went out for protein. This time we didnt get lost finding the San Fernando Rey mission, but as usual, T and A beat us there. This mission had the best museum. The convento had every room decorated and the Hippo imagined it being her house and completely re-decorated the entire building, including moving some doors. On a wall in the grand room hung a painting of Jesus on the cross, wearing a white skirt, with what looked like balls and skulls on his feet. It was a most disturbing, out of place, strange and very distasteful painting I've ever seen. I almost felt insulted. Not so much for the Jesus, but the painting as a whole. Behind the church lies Bob Hope's grave in a very serene garden. Didnt know he was buried there. J read the pamphet and it said when his wife asked him where he wanted to be buried, he said 'surprise me'. I didnt know he was Catholic. It was a beautifully kept mission, and a grand finali for the trip. We zoomed back north hoping to stop at the military camp near the tiny community of Jolon to visit the San Antonio de Padua mission on our way back home. But someone wanted to stop at a winery and so we killed another 45 minutes. I felt asleep. When I woke up, we went past Jolon without stopping. Someone definitely jeopardized our desire to see this mission on this trip. Next time it wont be any poor navigator. I'm just about mission out. We still has 6 more to visit to complete all 21. It was a mission 'possible'.

See the missions pictures

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The long awaited Capistrano

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Perhaps it's the name of the place. Or perhaps it just sounded good. We had always wanted to visit Capistrano. The morning in Oceanside was overcast. I was disappointed we didn't get a place close to the ocean. The motel complimentary breakfast wasn't bad tho. We could make our own waffles and being a gihugic waffle lover, it was indeed a real treat. T said he needed protein so he and A went ahead to hunt for eggs and meat. First stop of the day was the King of the mission, the most populous, San Luis Rey Mission. It was early so we visited the cemetery first. We found a strange writing (again) above a tomb that had Roman numerals but with an arabic 3 at the end. Perhaps they simply ran out of space. Then on one grave, there's a headstone and then a very tiny one with the same name at the other end. Footstone? When the mission was finally open, we visited the museum and the church. Down to the lavandarias through a flight of stairs that seemed to be constructed just for photography, we saw the 2 gargoyles. I imagined the women doing their laundry and gossiping about the padres. There was an Indian Pow Wow and I bought a small ceramic vase with Native American motives. Oh how I love ceramics! I need to take a ceramic class so I can get my hands in the mud! The sacred garden had an interesting statue of Jesus carrying the giant cross and a Roman soldier with a whip. Behind the statue and inside the locked fenced courtyard, the CA very first pine tree! At the books and coffee/tea shop, we bought a bottle of the mission wine. There were all kinds of wine but we decided on the one that had the best looking label - a Zinfandel, my old favorite! My idea was to drink it tonight in our junior suite at the Sheraton while we play Pictionary. On the way to our next mission, as usual my group got lost. The poor navigator insisted on taking the front passenger seat and therefore to navigate. At times I felt like throwing him out of the window, only that he's too big. But we made it and what an awesome site the San Juan Capistrano mission was. The cathedral ruins were what stood out the most. I felt like being back in Europe again, visiting archaeological sites. T pointed out fossils on the old bedrock used to construct the old fallen down cathedral. But it's Saturday and the mission was full of tourists and people enjoying the arts and crafts fair inside the mission compound. It took much of the magic away. The Capistrano town was quaint and rows of shops and outdoor restaurants circled half the mission. We had a nice Italian lunch on the courtyard serenaded by some pretty good live jazz. Then we hopped over to the new Cathedral next door and inside a wedding was in session. Beautiful modern style church where what do you guess, similar style paintings adorned the walls. Another hour later our poor navigator kept his promise and even tho we saw the San Gabriel mission, he absolutely insisted we went the opposite way. Sometimes I thought he's deliberately trying to sabotage our mission. T and A's Prius has an onboard GPS and we thought we beat them for once, they arrived at the mission only 2 minutes ahead of us. It was just 4:30 and so we got in with a huge discount. They only charged us for 1 senior citizen ticket. The garden cemetery was gorgeous and once again there was a display of mission models and I dutifully took pictures of each. The Bell Tower was the most impressive part as it's at the back of the building and very visible from the outside which had a small park/square. By now, we were much further inland and the weather was warm enough that I could go without a jacket, and there's no breeze. Then it was my turn to lead the group astray. I thought the Sheraton was only a few blocks away and so we got lost once more. Little did I know that a block from the mission also had a street with the same name where our hotel was. We had to call the hotel to get directions and then checked with T again and finally made it to the Sheraton at Pasadena in time for the snacks. B and L got a room at the members club and so we all went in to the club house to enjoy wine and hor d'orves . We toasted our mission 'possible and accomplished' even though there's still one more to go to complete the trip. For the evening we took the hotel shuttle to old Pasadena (just around the corner from the hotel) and spent time visiting the shops and buying clothes at the H&M. We recognized our old pal Moose Mcgilly. A few years ago this was the spot we stoped and called Glee for help when we ran out of gas. We had our supper at an Italian/Thai restaurant. Yum Yum. Back at the hotel, we drank the Zinfandel we bought in the morning at the San Luis Rey. I had intended to spend time each evening to visit and converse and enjoy each other's company and possibly to play a bit of Pictionary. But as usual, there was no time and we were tired after such long days. We talked a bit then each group retired in their respective rooms with their sweet sleeper beds. Our junior suite was grand with windows running along one wall and a marble bathroom. Finally a decent room after the small dingy motel the night before. I felt asleep with a cool breeze on my face.

Hippo at Capistrano
 Hippo in Capistrano


San Luis Rey de Francia
 San Luis Rey de Francia


Bells of San Gabriel Arcangel
 Bells of San Gabriel Arcangel

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Getting Lost…

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I woke up. The sight was unfamiliar and strange. The headache was back. I felt suffocated. When the world finally came into focus, I realized we're still stuck on the San Diego Freeway. I was hungry. We finally stopped for gas and lunched at Carrows, just south of Carlsbad. Then I took over the wheels and got on 805. This is the second day of our Southern CA Missions trip. Yesterday we took off early, made a pancakes and sausage stop at a MickieD, had a wonderful outdoor lunch in the sun in Santa Maria, and made it to Ventura in time to meet up with T and A.
Inside the Buenaventura Mission, T spotted a plague above a door that says PHE NERISIND ELPRIMER PATROND ELLA. It looked like Spanish but not exactly. Certainly not Latin. Definitely not Greek. What is it? We couldnt figure what language it was. The mission's garden was very properly kept and the facçde with the gorgeous single bell tower was very awe inspiring. But aside from these, not very impressive for the Hippo as she generally prefers missions that are no longer live, like the Purissima. The weather during the day wasnt as warm as I'd wanted but the wind died down towards the evening in Santa Barbara, and it was very pleasant when we strolled on the pier. We had Happy Hour at the Fish House and M ordered the most buttery and garlicky steamed clams we've ever had. My Syrah was delicious. Our room at the Montecito was large with a beautiful bathroom and a window that overlooked a terrace. The first day was enjoyable. Today though we got lost first thing in the morning. We wanted to take the short cut to the Santa Barbara mission but the road went uphill and we kept making wrong turns. Finally we had to stop and ask for directions. The girl told us to stay on the APS and I thought 'what the heck is the APS?'. Since most of us had visited the mission, I didnt go in, and spent time photographing the chalk drawings on the square. They are marvellous. And now we're once again lost trying to find the mission in San Diego. Someone in the group was a poor navigator! The white-washed Bell Tower and the Facade came upon us when we turned up the hill. The first mission founded was simply stunning. Here we met this funny guy who told us a story about the avenue of palms at Dolores. Quite a character! Not wanting to get back to the horrible traffic, we opted to dine in the Old Town. I've never been to Old Town San Diego and frankly was a bit disappointed. We had margaritas at a local joint, then transferred across the street to have tapas at a restaurant which has my name and offered central and south american cuisine. I even found Parilla, my favorite Argentinian meat. I've never seen it on the menu anywhere in CA. Doubling back up north, we were lost again trying to find our motel for the night. We finally made it to Oceanside in time for bed. Today we did a long slow drive, visited the first mission founded, had supper at 'my' restaurant, and the Hippo experienced Old Town San Diego. The bed at the Quality Inn was wonderful! It was a day of getting lost!

mission soledad
 Chalk Drawings



gang at san diego de alcala
 The Missionaries



PS - The Goose, being the Computational Linguist, like Champolion, cracked the strange language code. It could be PHENERIS IN DIO or PHENERI SIN DIO or PHENER INDO and EL PRIMER PATRON DE ELLA. ELLA could be Buen Aventura, the name of the place or the saint of the mission. PHENERI or PHENERIS could be the name of the primer patron. So that could mean Pheneris in God or Phener the Indian is the first patron of her (Buenaventura).
 

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