Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pumpkin carving at the Cernys

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post

The winner:

winner

The pumpkins and the party:


winner

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Philly

Posted by Hippo Bean at 6:17 PM 0 comments Links to this post
This morning M and I walked to the Franklin Institute. It was a shorter walk that google maps suggested. Since it didnt open till 9:30, we paid a visit to the St Peter and Paul's cathedral just across the logan square. This cathedral rivaled the ones I've just seen in the Baltics in beauty and decoration. Disappointed that the LegoMan exhibit at the Franklin Institute ended in Oct 4. Now it's Genghis Khan and Vatican Splendors instead. We went to see Genghis Khan. I'm not much for Mongol artifacts but the bust of Turandot took my breath away. She really looked quite beautiful with western facial features. Walked inside the Giant Heart, following the blood flow through each ventricle and aorta and it was fun. Spotted a skeleton doing the elliptical. Learned a bit about the brain and how the 'your brain' hall messed up with your brain. I felt dizzy afterwards. Saw the Foucault's Pendulum‎ on top of the 3rd floor, couldnt figure out the pegs and had to descend all the way to the bottom to see them ... hm. After this we went to the Museum of Arts, a bit of a longer walk this time but the Franklin Parkway was a gorgeous 4 lane boulevard lined with trees and flags of the countries. Looking back towards downtown, the skyline was magnificent.

All tourists crowded and waited in line to take pictures with the Rocky statue, or run up the 'rocky' steps. not many paid too much attention to the museum itself. Inside the European collections were outstanding. The special exhibit "The Wrath of the Gods", masterpieces by Micheangelo, Titian and Rubens, reduced the Hippo to her knees.
When I read about "Curator Christopher Atkins uncovering the striking similarities between Rubens’s Prometheus Bound and Michelangelo’s Risen Christ in the Sistine Chapel", I'd never look at Prometheus Bound the same way again. "Rubens was drawn to Michelangelo’s terribilità. Rather than a literal translation from the Latin word for “terrible,” terribilità connoted grandeur, force of expression, artifice, and skill. It was also a qualitative term that signified greatness. Terribilità conveyed the forcefulness, physicality, and power of the work of art, and of the artist who made it. Looking at this drawing, it is easy to see that Rubens directly modeled the pose of Prometheus on that of Michelangelo’s Tityus." The Hippo's never been much for Prometheus until now. It opened her eyes. After seeing Titian's paintings at the Hermitage, I was beginning to really like this guy too. Really had a great time at the Museum of Arts and pity we could not stay longer. (she's such a sucker for museums and classic arts).

After that, we retired back to the beautiful modern comfortable Sonesta and on impulse we had a food massage on Chestnut and 20th. After grabbing some supper at the Reading Terminal (M had classic philly cheesesteak as she'd never had cheesesteak before and the Hippo finally had her shrimp low mein). it was pouring rain when we went back to the hotel on the double. So we took a taxi to the opera at the Academy of Music, which was only 4 blocks away. We first stopped briefly at the Kimmel Center just to take a look at the inside. people were all over the steps to the Academy of Music as it didnt open its doors until a half hour before the show. The inside of this 158 years old building, beautiful chandeliers hung on the ceilings, 3 tiers of balconies, a beautiful enormous central chandelier blocked our 'amphitheater' 3rd tier view of the stage but it was raised up before the performance started. We only saw the first 2 acts of the modernized La Traviata because we'd wanted to return to the hotel early to relax a bit. Besides I didnt like the way they did the opera making it contemporary. They were dressed in modern attire but sang 'she sold her horses and carriages'. The walk back to the hotel on Broad st was quite enjoyable on a friday night. Everyone was out for the shows and pubs. The city hall was lite up and so were some of the nearby buildings. One even shone in alternating red and blue. Gosh I loved this town.

Next morning -

We only had the morning to see the remaining spectacles in Philly. M wanted to see the historical sites, so we went to the independence Hall. The line to the Liberty Bell was very long. People packed in the info center. The first available tour was at 1:45. With our afternoon departure, she wouldnt make it. So she queued up for the Bell while I shopped. We were thinking of doing the East State Penitentiary but decided against it and did the Constitutional Center instead, so at least she'd get to see the Bill of Rights and the printing copy of the Constitution with her own eyes. The exhibits here were very well done. I particularly enjoyed the Signer's Hall with the 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. I even signed the Constitution electronically.

We should have done the Penitentiary yesterday while we were at the Museum of Arts since it's nearby. And we should have gotten across the river to see the University city. And there are the Catholic Shrines that I've wanted to visit also. Or simply to wander around admiring the old row houses like we did on the first day on Spruce. There's so much we missed. But who knows, we may come back someday. Another offsite maybe? I didnt know I'd love it so much. So much history, so many museums, so much architecture. Aside from not having the best cheesesteak, I have found nothing that I didnt like in Philly.

Philly Photos:

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015

East Coast again

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:01 PM 1 comments Links to this post
15 years ago Vicinity sent me to New Hampshire and I felt in love with New England. The lone drive from Boston to Vermont, singing Massachusetts in the deserted and dark highways, the beautiful New England houses, the charming historical Norwich Inn. 2 days in Boston at the Double Tree just across from Harvard. Loved my first trip to New England. This time, AD put us in a cheap nightmarish motel, in the middle of nowhere, with 15 mins walk to the east coast office.

US Airways check-in was in terminal 2 but the gates were in terminal 1. Even though I've already checked in the night before, had to check in again at the kiosk just to drop off my luggage. SFO was packed so instead of having enough time to get food and settle down, I've almost missed my flight out. Everything on the boarding pass that I've printed the night before was wrong. Terminal was wrong, gate was wrong. The lines were super long at check-in and even longer at the security check. The security confiscated all of M's liquids. Food line was super long and slow and the line to the women's bathroom was even longer. so it's either food or toilet. Opted for food. Just got enough time to get a croissant and coffee and they're already boarding. We've all boarded but still no sign of S. We began to wonder if she'd make it. Window seat again but this time 2 other business people next to me and this dude from hawaii had to go a lot, so every time he got up, I got up too. Hate domestic flights. no food. the flight a bit bumpy when we got close to Philly. From up on top, the greater Philly area looked very green. Saw the city center by the meandering Delaware. cloudy. Luggage came out after 20 mins wait and waited another 45 for D to land. Our car was here and the journey to Horsham took over an hour due to rush hour traffic. Very green. leafs just about starting to turn orange brown. long 2 lane highways. Very New England. The 7 of us were excited and chatted happily during the ride. Warm and sunny.

When we arrived at our hotel, our jaws dropped. The reception was the size of a closet and we just about took all the space there. Elevators were old. My assigned room was again at the end of the hallway while everyone else was put on the other side. The room looked tired. The bathroom was not cleaned properly, hair in the tub and sink. The sofa had white cat fur. the advertised fully equipped kitchen, was empty of utensils, a 2 plate stove, no coffee maker, all drawers and cupboards empty. Had to ask for cups, plates, coffee maker, spoons, everything at the reception. We were practically starving because none of us had lunch, and breakfast was 8-9 hours ago. No restaurants in the vicinity. no convenience stores within a 5 miles. So we ordered food to be delivered. Some of us wanted chinese, others italian so we ordered both. kun pao chicken, pineapple fried rice, spring rolls, stir fry seafood, french fries, spaghetti and meatballs, caesar salad, and taco pizza. The meatballs were disgusting. the pizza was strangely good. nobody touched the salad. Our feast was enormous. Starving, we ordered too much food. $40 and some for chinese, $70 for the italian. A, R, H and A arrived and we exploded in laughter and chit chat. We were like little kids on summer camp. Surprised no one at the hotel complained about the noise. A had to change his room because it was littered with ants.

Got ready for bed only to find out after pulling the linen over, a great blood stain on the mattress. There was no way I was going to sleep on that mattress for 3 nights. Besides, the toilet self flushed every 2 mins. So I went to the reception to ask for another room. 106? No way, that was A's old room with the ants! they finally gave me the handicap room on the 2nd floor. When I got there, a big bag filled with garbage was in front of the door and there was no blanket on the bed but everything seemed clean and in properly working order. Asked for a blanket and to please take away that garbage in front of my door! The bed however was itchy and I scratched and itched all night, waking up every hour if not for the heat, for the noise. people padded in front of my door, slammed door loudly, and the fridge was louder than R's voice. had to turn the fridge completely off. couldnt turn on the ac as the unit was thundering. So I've suffered the first night in the heat and itch.

In the morning, we had to walk a good 15 mins to the office, carrying our heavy laptops. Breakfast at the Extended Stay America, was grab and go. Coffee, tea in paper cups, 3 kinds of muffins and granola bars. Apples and oranges. Who eats granola bars for breakfast? They put us at Training room A and people would pop in and out to discover how the Hippo looked like. I was the only one who nobody met f2f yet because I've been missing the annual offsites (on purpose since it always coincided with my autumn trip). After a full day of work and meetings, we trained from willow grove to suburban station in Philly, and walked to the lucky strikes for a late afternoon of bowling and hors-d'oeuvre. This place was pretty cool. Billiards table, long sofas and bowl in the semi darkness. had 2 strikes and 3 spares. otherwise total open frames. long gone my days of good bowling. Remember that trophy I won at the Apple bowling league? arm hurting, eyes heavy with sleep, we trained back to horsham and L drove us back to the haunted hotel. Now the Hippo was famous at the east coast office for the room with the bloody murder. another night of itching, dirty carpet smell. found out that they didnt even clean our rooms daily. housekeeping only once a week and we're staying there for only 3 nights!

Second day of meetings and work. The wings we had for lunch were outstanding. The horsham office was amazing. the kitchen/break area had high chairs, brightly painted walls. coffee, tea, even iced tea stations. very bright green colors just like our san mateo office. they had quiet rooms, closet in the cubes. We all sat in the training room and for the first time in our history, the entire group worked in the same room, shouting at each other. felt like school kids again. We had a great time working actually. After the meet and pies (had too much pie, greedy, I took a little piece of every pie, and we had about 10 different types of pies), we went to Bonefish for dinner. had ahi tuna with mango and asian sauce and potato au gratin. was very good. too bad I had too much pie in my stomach. pomegranate martini (gosh this thing was GOOD!). bang bang shrimps. holy cow, I was so stuff to the point of getting sick. just couldnt go straight to bed (just think of that bed with itchy sheets, the dirty shoes carpet smell in the room, I shrieked), so we went for a walk near the lousy hotel, in the dark. no street lights. we didnt see anyone out. just a few cars driving by.nothing but offices. by the time we saw some shops, we had to go back. it was at least a good 25 minutes walk to any signs of civilization. C came in the 2nd day and got lucky because they couldnt find her reservation so she was put at the Marriotts. We were furious. and very jealous. I couldnt think of how I could stay another night in the itchy smelly room, so I frentically tried to book a room at the Marriotts. But all rooms were over $300 a night and the logistics of moving and getting there and back was too much to handle, so another night of itch, heat and bad smell.

On the third morning, never happier to leave a hotel. M called Uber and google gave us the scenic route to Philly. We drove through nice neighborhoods with beautiful brick/stone houses, along the Schuylkill river. picturesque old iron bridges. the philly skyline. $33 for the 53 mins ride. what a deal.

My room at the Sonesta was available so we dumped our luggage and went first to the Reading Terminal for food. Had DiNic's roast pork, roast beef and italian sausage. I liked the sausage and beef. the pork looked and tasted like chicken. i swore they gave us chicken instead of pork. Slow walk to the independence hall, liberty bell. first time layed eyes on a copy of the constitution and declaration of independence. birth of the nation here. you cant get anymore historical than this in the US. the spruce st offered the row houses that I loved. had coffee at the SaxCoffee on Spruce. It was a nice day of site seeing. The city hall was gorgeous. really loved Philly.

when the rest of the gang departed, finally some peace and quiet and I relaxed in my beautiful and clean hotel, on a clean thick bed with thick duvet and fluffy pillows. no itching. By 7, I strolled out to grab some low mein at the Reading Terminal only to find out that it closed at 6. Very pissed. how can a market not open for dinner? Had to settle for a veggie soup and chicken noodle salad from Cosi, which turned out to be actually quite good.

So tonight, finally a totally good night!

East Coast office reception:



Break room:










 

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