Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

no hippos

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
There were no hippos but I already knew that. And there were no elephants because, they said, they were hard to keep. But what's a safari without hippos and elephants? And no lions or tigers either. "We have no man eating animals", the safari guide said. Great. But there is 1 female cheetah whom we saw chasing a bird, and 2 males cheetahs kept separately! She didnt like either one, we were told. We were at the Safari West by Santa Rosa for this year's company's offsite. It was a long day of a long ride up to Marine County for a sandwich lunch (again, we had sandwich for lunch the day before at the company's meeting). We did our team building events - weird games like holding up a pole with our fingers and lowering it, but it just kept moving up, even though none of us was trying to raise it, and making a silhouette of a giraffe with a long rope, blind folded. It was a massive confusion with no team cohesion. I could barely hear what's going on, let alone try to be part of the team. Then we ascended our jeeps for the safari tour. Everyone tried to get on the top seat for the best view. I've decided against it because of the heat and the sun. So started the opening and closing of gates, up and down the hill. The CA weather is too dry to be a safari. We saw impalas (by far my favorite animals in that place) and wildebeests but they were too far for any decent pictures. Too bad, I rather like impalas. Wildebeests I couldnt care less. When the Cape buffalos came, they crossed in front of our jeep, and the wildebeests receded their territory. Not unlike humans. When big power came, the weaker ones go. Then there were zebras. Nice stripes but only b&w. Was told they were very bad tempered animals. But today they looked tamed. The rhinos set dating with their butts towards us. A towering giraffe crossed in front of our jeep and I wished I had the top seat. I've noticed they were very elegant animals. Walked slowly and chewed politely. The birds cage was colorful but not too impressive but then the Hippo was never a 'bird' watching person. Monkeys I hate. Antelopes everywhere. Finally a chicken and steak BBQ with a quite good CA petite syrah to finish off the day. I was rather looking foward to this offsite since I've never been to a safari before. The Hippo is not really an animal lover. Only hippos, moose, manatees and leopards, and none of them belongs in a safari. Company's offsites were never really good but a day away from the office was a good opportunity to relax. This year's employee's gift was a picnic bag furnished with steel utensils, plastic plates and cups, cloth napkins and a picnic blanket with one side waterproof. Another generous gesture from the company. Gosh, I love working at AD.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Star Party

Posted by Hippo Bean at 2:00 AM 1 comments Links to this post
The biggest telescope I've seen was in the Alapacha Observatory in Huatajata in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, back in 1998. The telescope was a gift from NASA. It was a freezing night of southern star gazing at an altitude of 12,300ft. I remember the lecture and then the roof opened into a clear cold starry night. It was what I've told Tomaso when he asked me if I've ever looked through a giant telescope. But Al's telescope was bigger. 32" diameter, he polished the mirror himself. I've looked through the opening of the telescope and he told me not talk so I wont be spitting into the mirror! We were in Bonny Doon airport, just above Santa Cruz, and the night wasnt exactly cloudless but clear enough to see Saturn and its magnificent rings plus Titan, Venus and later Jupiter, both so bright they mercilessly almost blinded the Hippo's eyes. Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto were lined up. Mars was faint and tiny but still visible. Then Al turned the giant scope and we had to climb a ladder to look through the eyepiece. 'Dont touch the telescope' Al kept saying. With the slightest movement, it would throw the thing out of focus. The Ring Nebula, the Veil Nebula and the Lagoon Nebula were all blurred into one after a while. All I remember was what looked like pieces of glass with a light at the center. Mysterious. The DumbBell Nebula, which Hippo's dubbed the DingDong Bell was a blur. With naked eyes, we could see the Constellation of Scorpius with the Steaming Teapot on its tail (I say it doesnt look anywhere like a steaming teapot). The Milky Way was indeed very 'milky'. Mely pointed out the Northern Cross, a first for the Hippo. We even followed a few travelling satellites and a few shooting stars completed our Star Party. Joining us were a few other amateur astronomers with their homemade telescopes, and even 2 attached with photo cameras and laptops for digital images. We ate sushi under starry night. It was cold but the company of friends, astronomy lovers and the stars and planets (and even the satellites) warned us up.
Al and his gihugic telescope


Amateur telescope with photo camera


Earlier in the day we completed the Mission tour by re-visiting the now open and restored Mission San Miguel. When we visited it back in 2007, it was closed for renovation and we could only admire the dilapidated outside. The walls that surrounded the compound still looked like they're crumpling down, and I've wondered what exactly did they restored? But at least this time we could visit the chapel, the museum and the cemetery. On our way down, we again stopped at Soledad. Nothing changed there. We found a Basque restaurant in town on T's Android but it was closed. We ended up having nice burgers at the HonkyTonk with a very hospitable waitress. Too bad it was too early for the strippers. Nice place with good western flavor, but what is it doing in the town of San Miguel?

See pictures of Mission San Miguel

 

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