Saturday, December 31, 2005

Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 just zoomed by ...

Posted by Hippobean at 12:59 PM
Been rather depressed lately. It usually goes with the end of a year, the holiday season I've always been looking forward to but could never quite appreciate once it's here. When people celebrate with friends and family, I get just get depressed.

Greg's class ended rather eh, suddenly, it seemed. No word or feedback from him at all about my project, which, being the wimpy me, I've decided I couldnt possibly let the class view. It was a piece close to my heart and so I've asked him not to post it. "It's nice when people share". Was his only comment. And so suddenly it was all over. It's been the funnest part of the year and I gained some skills which would entertain myself for years to come. But gosh, how I miss it! Another example in my life where good things turned bad at the end.

So I've decided to tag along and go to Luzi's. If nothing else, just for a change of environment and I've always loved road trips. But before I realize it, the 4 days were quickly over and then the new year.

Yes, the year just zoomed by. 2005 full of expectations, multimedia madness, crushing disappointments, hopeless adoring passion, a new friendship, a new skill, Japan, family reunion in Sorrento, and will go down in the Hippo history book as one of the most memorable year.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Friday, October 14, 2005

Last day in Rome and in Europe for 2005

Posted by Hippobean at 12:59 PM 0 comments
Trying to cramp more into our trip, we waited half hour for the Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel.

Beloved Goddess Pallas Athena
Hall of Statues - Vatican Museum

Third time through this but this time we lingered in the maps room where we saw ancient Sicily, found ancient Neopoli and Sorrento and even Basilicata, the region where Tomo's mom's family was from.

map of old Sicilia

We made sure we didnt miss the Rafael room:

Sulking Michelangelo in Raphael's School of Athens
Stanze di Rafaelo

Raphael's self portrait in the School of Athens
Stanze di Rafaelo

Dante in Raphael's La Disputa
Stanze di Rafaelo

and then finally Capella Sistina.

It was Friday and EuroStar trains to Napoli were fully booked, and so we had to wait for the 7:45 train. With heavy heart, I stayed in the Termini. The train was packed and I kept thinking of our wonderful trip, of Sicilia, my beloved Sicilia, the welcome view of Pelegrino, the night view of Vesuvio on the ferry, the never ending lunches, the glorious view of Etna, Taormina filling the side of the hill, Sicilian refreshing rain, awesome and funny company of team mendola, of the family reunion in Sorrento, the glorious Tonnarella hotel, magnificent close views of Vesuvio, and Roma, ah, high above the Vatican and deep below its crypt, of Peter's bones and always, always and constantly of him!

It was after 10PM that we made it back to the Garibaldi Napoli Centrale. We knew it was only about 50 meters to the hotel but the city was unsafe especially at night and we had all our luggage and so we opted to a taxi. The driver wanted 15 euros and we wanted the meter. He seemed to be angry because of this and took us for a ride. He drove fast and furious and went all the way round the city. It was 12 euros when we finally reached the hotel. We got a big triple room with a wonderful bathroom. In the morning we got a wonderful american breakfast and I was comfortable although I kept thinking what the Paradizo hotel was like!

Last trip of the year and what a trip it was! The sites we've seen were all awesome beyond words can describe but the company was what made it most memorable. And what a year it was! 2005 should go down on Hippo's book as one of the best! 3 more months and it would be over but the memories will remain forever!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

High above and deep below and The bones

Posted by Hippobean at 11:36 PM 1 comments
In the morning we went up to St Peter's cupola. Oh, what a site! All 4 of the evangelists right above the center altar were now up close to us and we peeked down into Bernini's horrible canopy.

Tv es Petrvs et Svper Hanc

back of statues above St Peter

Out on the base of the dome we got great views of the piazza and the back of the statues. I've never been above St Peter's before and this was truly a wonderful experience to see Buonarotti's dome so close. After been high up on St Peter's, we went deep down below the Vatican, even lower than the crypt and the Basilica's foundation, the ancient necropolis. The Scavi tour was guided by a priest in-training, a young man from the Penn diocese who was doing his seminary studies in the Vatican. The scavi story started with Nero burning Rome and blaming it on the Christians and subsequently torturing and killing them right here on this hill. Peter was among the ones crucified and his body buried in a shallow grave. We walked on 1600 years old narrow cobblestoned streets with mausoleums on both sides. Later the Christians built a retaining wall and a simple Aedicule with 2 marble columns and a hole so that faithfuls can drop their handkerchieves down to touch the relics. Much later still Constantine built a more elaborate Memorial and subsequent popes added more memorials right on top of Peter's tomb. It was hard to imagine a sky above our heads and painted buildings in this dark underground place. Some mausoleums had nice frescoes and the tombs and sarcophagi (fresh eaters) were nicely decorated, some with roman/greek motifs and one building had egyptian paintings on the walls. Then we finally came upon the graffiti wall and behind it, the remains of the trophy of Gaius or the aedicule, with its 4 feet tall marble column. A hole was cut on the wall that revealed 17 glass boxes and inside them St Peter's bones! Right there the group paused in silence and the young to be priest offered a prayer. A lady in the group cried silently. It touched the core of my heart though I'm no longer a believer. It was a moment to remember and certainly the high point of the entire trip. This tiny place was not only significant to the Catholics but also a highly historical and archeological site. Aside from Israel, where else offered that much? Back up on the grotto we went by John Paul II tomb quickly. My favorite pope!

Later in the afternoon, we wandered across the St Angelo pedestrian only bridge to cross over to the other side of the fiume Teverre (Tiber river) and came upon piazza Navona to admire the fountain of the 4 rivers (Nile, Plata, Danube and Ganges)

the fountain of 4 rivers - Piazza Navona

and at dusk we visited the Pantheon, a first time for the Hippo. Such an awe struck building. Enormous columns and magnificent dome.

the pantheon at night

Around the corner we had a most satisfying meal. After dinner we went to the Spanish Steps in the piazza de Espagna and then to the Trevi fountain and back to our hotel, passing the St Angelo castle at night.

castel Sant'Angelo at night

Piazza di St Pietro was lit with Michelangelo's dome in back lights. Our last night in Rome and what glorious sites we've witnessed and what enjoyable company I had. Surely this time Rome had left more fantastic memories than ever before.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Catholic center of the Universe

Posted by Hippobean at 12:44 PM 0 comments
Leaving a most comfortable and beautifully serene place was always most difficult. After 3 nights at La Tonnarella, one got used to its comfort, good service, free internet access, breathtaking views and wonderful rooms. No matter how well one planned, the end was almost always caos. The cell phone was recovered and Tomo had to mail it to Trieste and email to let them know the phone was found and on its way. Thus the rest of the group went ahead to the Circumvesuviana station and we 3 missed the bus and ended up taking a taxi. In a rush, we went in to the train and missed our farewells. I had wanted to hug each and everyone for the awesome company and the most heart felt pleasure of meeting them but we missed each other completely. Shame! In Garibaldi Napoli Centralle we EuroStar'd to Rome. The ride was pleasant as the train wasnt full. Rome welcomed us with rain. Rome was not one of my favorite cities. But 7 years was a long time and I've forgotten what it was like. We took bus 40 to our hotel by the Vatican. The bus was packed but I was able to take in the sites along the streets the bus travelled. I remembered them, crowded, dirty, noisy but with lots of ancient monuments here and there and most of all cobblestoned. The hotel Adriatic, 2 stars, is a typical European hotel. The rooms are big and clean and mine had a small balcony that overlooked a side street. Most typical European and I felt right at home. Another nostalgia! I just loved it! We went to the Catholic center of the Universe. I've forgotten how grand St Peter was. The circular square with its statues, the magnificent portal and giant columns, the over decorated ceiling of the antichamber, and oh, the cathedral itself. We admired the Pieta among visitors. The horribly out of place Bernini's canopy and the altar with missing Jesus. Everything here honored Peter but there was no Christ. Tomorrow is our much anticipated Scavi tour. I just cant wait. After all that's the only reason why we're doing Rome again. All 3 of us had been here before and this is my 4th time in the Roman capital. I've seen much in Rome before but finally I did get a bit excited and I'm glad I'm once again in the capital of the western civilization.

Back at the hotel, Terrence called to let us know the group was back at the New Europe hotel instead of the Paradizo. He said the Paradizo hotel is on the 4th floor of a shabby alley and there they ran into a young girl who told them the hotel wasnt safe. This got us scared and we too cancelled and booked at the New Europe. I had wanted to stay at the Paradizo because it's on Purgatorio street and the website says their bathrooms are deprived of all comforts! Well we never did find out how the hotel really was afterall. It would had been funny to stay at a hotel called Paradise on a street called Purgatory with bathrooms without any comforts!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Family Reunion

Posted by Hippobean at 12:39 AM 0 comments
Last evening was wonderful! The Family sat around tile covered patio tables with candle light, serenaded by Italian music off the iPod speakers, 3 bottles of wine (I like the Lacrima di Christi Rosso) and socialized. Our last night together. Lots of laughter. Tomo's wacky crazy funny family! All day shopping, lost and recovered cell phone, sickness, good and bad food, Ercolano and dirty circumvesuviana train, missed Vesuvio bus (no hike to the crater), lousy Italian sandwich ... quite a family reunion.

family reunion

Today EuroStar to Rome to visit the scavi under the Vatican.

PS - Walking through Ercolano (Herculanium) yesterday was like walking into an ancient city. Everything seemed to be like they were just left there and its inhabitants off to vacation or something. It's eery but the frescos are well preserved, the color, especially the light blue, brilliant. Not the scale of Pompeii, but nevertheless just as impressive and beautiful. I finally did the 2 towns so devastated by Vesuvius. Now I can allow Sorrento in peace.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sunday, October 09, 2005

ciao da Sorrento

Posted by Hippobean at 4:23 PM 2 comments
Ferried back to the mainland. We had live music in the lounge and we sat there for a while enjoying it. Already missing wonderful Sicilia. Didnt want to leave. Arrived in Napoli before the sun rose, in rain and cold. Taxied to New Europe hotel and met up with Tomo's family. What a reunion, with wow's and oh's. After an American breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon and real cafe americano, while the rest of them went to the archaeological museum, we 3 took the circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. Napoli, what a dumpy town and I thought Palermo was bad! Lots of riff-raffs on the train, with accordians. But most got off at the Pompeii Scavi station. During the 1 hour train ride, Vesuvius was so near I could almost see the crater. After a long tunnel, the train emerged into sunshine and the Amalfi coast in view. Our hotel, La Tonnarella, has rooms all with views of the coast and the volcano. I have a balcony with direct view of the volcano and the town of Sorrento and blue blue Mediterranean water. Perched on the hill side, what a gorgeous hotel (not to mention free internet!). The bathroom in my room has Italian tiles. I'm going to just relax here and enjoy my room and the view. What a day! But I miss Sicily!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday, October 07, 2005

Norman Palermo

Posted by Hippobean at 11:19 PM 0 comments
Today did Palermo, all the sites, the Palatine chapel, the cloisters in St Giovanni degli Eremiti, and the mosaics in Monreale. Gorgeous, gorgeous!

La Capella Palatina

Domes of La Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti

Decorated double columns in the Cloisters
of the Cattedrale di Monreale

We had our last group lunch in Mondello, the other side of Pelegrino,

Mount Pelegrino

at a restaurant by the beach with fried calamari as our main course. Massimo delicioso! The breeze was soothing and the sea water warm to the touch. Last night in Sicily. What an island! The group (team Mendola!) had our evening meal together in laughter. Back at the hotel, we hugged and kissed our farewells. A gorgeous kiss on the cheek from Joe with intense gorgeous eyes. The evening was warm, crowds were out, monuments illuminated all around. Reminded me of my last night in Sibiu. The dumpy morning of Palermo is forgotten.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I'd show him the world

Posted by Hippobean at 11:03 PM
In pouring rain we saw the majestic temple at Segesta. Wonderfully intact.

Segesta temple

The trek up to the Greek theater offered fantastic views of the canyons and the temple below. The rain was refreshing and gorgeous. The middle aged couple Ligia and Joe was a sweetness to watch. They held hands all the time and still seemed so much in love. Joe, a Geologist, is such a romantic. Soft spoken, extremely polite, sweet and even good looking for a 50+ yr old. He said he proposed in candlelight during a storm in Florida. And now, how could a woman ever refuse? Once I saw them kissing. Another time I saw Ligia touching Joe's hair and her hand lingered on his face while he kissed it with eyes closed. How can they keep up the romance after 20 yrs of marriage? if there's one thing that makes this life worthwhile living, this is it! How many times have I dreamed about moments like these? And to see it really happening right before my very eyes, warmed my heart totally and convinced me that what I dream about can indeed be reality. While couples divorce after 2-3 years of marriage, we have Ligia and Joe with their love still going strong after 20 years! One need only to look at Joe's adoring eyes at Ligia! I've never been so jealous in my life! Only if I could get just one day with a love like theirs, I'd gladly live all my life in misery!

The weather improved a bit when we reached the mountain top of Erice. Cobblestoned streets, wall around the town, alley ways shooting out all over the place, ancient churches and a castle.


We had pasta con sarde and fish for lunch. Typical Sicilian. The best meal I had so far in Sicily. The town is quaint, lovely and not crowded with tourists. It was cold and breezy but I adored it. On our way back to Palermo, we stopped at Tappito, a tiny town with the bestest huge cannolli, covered with ricota.

bestest hugest cannoli

A lone bird soared in the sky amidst clouds of blue and grey - all alone, surfing its loneliness - just like me. At a small church we ran into a PowerPoint presentation in English, about toxic waste. Also here is the Math and Democracy conference center where Tomo's old boss had once been.

I think about him constantly. All this beauty, I wish I can share it with him. If he would have me, I'd show him the world!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

che silenzio meraviglioso

Posted by Hippobean at 11:34 PM 0 comments
The Romans knew how to live in style. Massimum built this villa in Piazza Armerina complete with cold, warm and hot baths, gardens, a basilica, and floors completely filled with figurative and geometric mosaics, even in the servants quarters, and a sex room. Hippo's not much for mosaics but these are truly gorgeous.

Mosaic in Piazza Armerina

Mosaic in Sex Room

In Agrigento Hippo saw what she came to Sicily to see - Greek temples, the Valle dei Templi.

Tempio della Concordia

The sandstone temples were in terrible decay and it hurts me that the Italian government never managed to restore and preserve them until now. It was towards dusk that we visited the ruins and the effect of the lowering sun behind the columns were marvellous, giving the rosy/orange columns a glowing look. At night the temples were lite, a site to marvel at. While standing over the valley with the immense blue Mediterranean, I stood in silence to take it all in. An old Italian couple came up and the lady said: 'che silenzio meraviglioso!' I turned around and smiled. "Buona sera". It's wonderful to know I'm not the only one who appreciates silence and cherishes moments like these. Total quietness standing on thousands year old temple ground.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

etna wont budge

Posted by Hippobean at 7:36 AM
The whole area was wet. Clouds covered the volcano as we made our way to refugio Sapienza. Fog and pouring rain. T's plans to summit went to nothing. Absolutely no views of Etna. Major Disappointment. Yesterday we admired fantastic views of Etna, towering clearly before our eyes and we spent a good time admiring it.

Mount Etna

Today, she chose to hide herself and absolutely refused to let us scale it. So we just muck around the refugio, and had to settle to just climb to a few nearby craters.

Crateri Silvestri

Lava rocks everywhere. On our way down, we saw a house covered by lava almost up to its roof. Tomo went in and said he found a lava lamp!

So back to Taormina to shop. Gorgeous place. My hotel room has wonderful views of the coast and Etna. In pouring rain, we visited the teatro Greco and had a picnic lunch there. The theater had a broken wall behind the stage that offered great views of the sea.

Greek Theater - Taormina

Strolling thro Corso Umberto lined with shops on both sides and occasional squares that break the monotony of this long main drag. Each square was more fantastic than the last, with its own church and fountain. Found the internet cafe where I'm posting this. I love this town although touristy.

We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant close to our hotel the Sole Castello, and walked up to the Saracene fortress. It was closed but we had great views of Taormina sprawling down the side of the hill and Castelmola high above, lite by flood lights.

Taormina at night

Tomorrow to Agrigento! Hope weather improves.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

partial eclipse

Posted by Hippobean at 11:30 PM 0 comments
and everything went wrong. My camera of 15 years broke, my wrist watch band is torn, my brand new 6 euros cigarrette lighter no longer works. A car accident on our way down from Taormina. A near accident when our driver failed to slow down and almost slammed into the lines of cars in front of the highway toll. luckily there's some space between 2 cars, so he jammed the minibus there and the lady in the car on our right yelled with lots of Italian hand gestures. Chey complained she felt something funny and because it's a partial eclipse today. I've asked 'partial elipse of what? The sun, the moon?' and Howard thought it was the eclipse of the sun and the moon! Neither T nor I knew about this eclipse until we saw the crescent reflections on the ground.

Partial Eclipse

Eclipse indeed and everything went wrong today. And we are in Siracusa, exploring the greek and roman theaters.

Teatro Greco

Off to Catania now.

Yesterday we paid tribute to the lovely quaint town of Cefalu. A place Hippo would like very much to return and spend more time. By the north side of the island, narrow cobblestoned streets, a wonderful baroque cathedral, a bit rundown but romantic.

In Catania, the group got shaved ice and Tomo's cup came with a big piece of broken glass, no extra euro needed! Good thing he didnt cut his tongue. The old town square has the replica of the elephant holding the obelisk. Now I cant remember where this copy came from. We didnt spend much time here. Just a few pictures of the square and the cathedral and off we went. Our minibus had a flat tired and so we all had the experience of seeing Sicilians patching a tire. First of its kind. Back to Taormina with pizza dinner and the bus up to our wonderful hotel with gorgeous views of Etna, didnt show up. We ended up taking 3 taxis, 12 euros each, to the hotel. Our first experience of unreliable Sicilian public transport and expensive taxis. Tho altogether, not a bad day.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Saturday, October 01, 2005

ciao da Palermo

Posted by Hippobean at 10:23 AM 0 comments
The cabin bunk bed was most comfortable. I had a good night rest. Was bone tired after the transatlantic flight. we didnt get any breakfast on board but the morning was greeted by Pelegrino, the western rock of Sicily. (this Italian keyboard is driving me crazy!).

Arrival at Sicilia

As we approached the Palermo harbor, we kept creeping closer and closer to the mountain, first faintly then the sun finally appeared in full glory, the entire north west of the Italian 'soccer ball' was revealed. Hello Sicily. I had wanted to meet you for so long. We decided the first order of business was to have breakfast at the Presidente hotel, just to see what it looks like. Continental style buffet breakfast suited me just fine. The crunchy bread was lovely although neither T nor A liked it very much. I grew up with this kind of thing, I'm very at home here. We walked to the center of town. Palermo is a dump. Although the Spasimo with its broken wall was an awesome site. Palermo, what used to be a rival to London, so grand, is now bombed out and neglected. Vergogna! It could be a jewel in the Mediterranean, instead an eye sore. Nonetheless, welcome to Sicilia!

In the evening we met with Chey and Lou. The devil had the guts to show his face. I felt like punching him. We met some of the rest of the group. Everyone had similar bad experience with Lou. We dubbed our group 'team mendola'! Not a bad crowd!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

so far but oh so close

Posted by Hippobean at 6:07 AM 0 comments
Somma Peak on the left, then the Gigante valley and then Vesuvio's summit. The still active volcano looms in front of us most real. I was at the stern of the SNAV Sicilia, contemplating the now lite last remnant of the Naples protective wall while unaware that Vesuvio was so close! Big and in full view! Most impressive. As the evening light faded, artificial lights came on and we can see the lives of the houses spiriling up the side of the mountain that look like lava flows. The overnight ferry started to pull away from the Napoli harbor. Welcome to Amalfi. It's been 7 years since Hippo last set foot in Italian soil. The flight to HRW was uneventful. Since I had 4 hours to blow before the BMI flight to Naples, I surprised Tomo and Mely by showing up at their flight gate. Then I found a good spot and settled down for my carefully prepared music and awaited for the appointed hour. The flight to Naples was pleasent in the company of a Napolitano who gave me insights to the city. Flying over the Alps was an impressive site and I thought I spotted Lauderbrunnen. Then the wind kicked up and rain splatted on the windows as we descended into Napoli. A bit rocky but otherwise unenventful. My flight actually touched down before theirs so I had time to scout out the airport. Alibus to the Port of Naples was quite a welcome to the industrial city filled with traffic, people and caos. Why would such a big mass of people want to live here? The SNAV Sicila was already docked when we made it there and we went in early. The evening on the ferry we got the ultimate pleasure of seeing the coastal lights diminished right before our eyes and a fantastic silhouette of Visuvius as a backdrop. Then we passed by the island of Capri. Out on deck, it was windy and a bit cold. Pitch darkness, lights on land, and the constant sound of waves, an occassional splash. Again such settings always made me melancholic, I thought of him constantly. Wondered what he could be doing at that moment. So far but oh so close to my mind. Thus was the first day of what promises to be a memorable journey, last of the year.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

While they are still real ...

Posted by Hippobean at 2:14 AM 0 comments
Summer came and went without bringing any warmth. And so quickly Fall is upon me and with it the much anticipated Advanced Flash class. I rushed through the first 2 assignments just to get them out of the way and out of mind so I can enjoy Sicily and Tomo's wacky family fully, without thinking of school. I want this last trip of the year to be completely adventure filled and totally enjoyable as I know I'd need to work very hard in Greg's class. This is going to be my internship last quarter. I'm back in being part-time. Although I enjoy the extra free time I wont enjoy not having much money again. I've gotten back to the routine of showing up to work every day and having a purpose, a place to be and a job to do every morning, just like what I've been doing all my life up till the day I was laid off from Vicinity. Now I'm back to being a part-timer. How quickly the time passes. I dont want this quarter to be my last as I've grown attached to the people at NAS and to the routine of going to the Base every morning. I know I will miss it terribly when I'm gone and I try not to think about it. I need to remind myself to really slowdown and appreciate from the bottom of my heart the fact that I was blessed to be given this opportunity of a lifetime. I look at the buildings, the guards, the immense open space of the Base, the wind tunnel I passed by every morning, the Columbia Cluster, Veronica's gentle smile, Ryan's goofy coolness, Don's sunshine, Lisa's insults, Harout's strange jokes, Cathy's understanding, Heather's friendly face, Randy's gentle voice, Lesya's cabbage wraps, Sue's big eyes, Rob's quiet intelligence, Steve's hearty laughter, the little shells on the glass, the ants. Some day, in the distant future, they will all come back to me and would cause a smile on my face. But for now, they are my presence and I should appreciate them, enjoy and love them with all my heart while they are still real...

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday, August 05, 2005

And so Goose was here...

Posted by Hippobean at 11:05 PM
"I will hide when he comes!" The Hippo said. "Dont be such a baby. You gotta meet him." said Tomo. "But if he meets me he will know how lame the Hippo really is. I've worked hard to create that image and he might even think the Hippo was cool, you know". "Well, he's gotta find out sooner or later." Sigh. I really do want to meet the Goose in person but I'm so boring, dull and lame, I was just afraid he'd discovered the real me and laugh.

After a 3 hr bumper to bumper on HI-1, I've simply forgotten that I should be nervous and so when I turned around the corner and spotted them (he) standing in front of the video room at MBARI, I wasnt afraid anymore. The Goose was exactly how I imagined him to be, only a bit quieter, more soft-spoken, taller and all americanized. I think I managed OK until later that day, during our seafood dinner at Phil's, after a few sips of my favorite Blackstone Merlot, suddenly I remember I should be nervous. Well, the wine, as usual, did the opposite effect on me. Made kinda sleepy and the nerves gave. I got tongue tied. Later when we finally took them back to the hotel in Monterey, while M and Tomo kept on chatting away, unwilling to part company, Goose and I was standing on the other side of the Chick Magnet, silent as a lamb. So when he was finally next to me in flesh and blood, I got nothing to say. After all this was the guy who made a pilgrimage to Hippo's birthplace, who taught me everytime I know about web development, and now that he was finally here, standing next to me, I got nothing to say to him. Another deja vu, didnt this happen with some other guy, some other time, not long ago, in some other place? Sounds like the story of my life. I'm not one for small talk, and I remembered discussing silence with him, so I hope he didnt think I forgot my manners (I dont have any to begin with!) or that I didnt like him or anything like that. It was, well, a bit embarrassed and I was hoping Tomo would come to my rescue, but he was enjoying M too much to remember me. Finally it's time for the goodbyes and only then did I dare to touch,, with both hands, his clean shaven face, like I had wanted to do, on one brief moment, oh so long ago (I couldnt really remember why I had wanted to do this, only that I've promised myself, if I ever met him in the flesh, this was something I would do).

Dunno what he thought of me (I wont even dare to ask!) . I just hope I didnt scary the shit out of him.

"I'm so proud of ya, Hippo, so glad you didnt chicken out. So, what did you think?" asked Tomo, on our way back. "I had a honest to God good time, and it wasnt scary at all".

Hm, truth be told, I really hate these kinds of meeting. After 7 years, one would build up some kind of image about someone, and the tone of writing may or may not coincide with the tone of a real voice. But I have no fantasies about this guy. He's just what his words said he was. Wouldnt it be nice if everyone was like him?

M was very nice and less scary than I thought. She's really more down to earth than Goose made her to be. She even laughed at my jokes. I thought I would just desintegrate into splinters at the sight of her. But she was a lot nicer and likable than I've imagined.

Now there would be no more mysteries in my life. Now everytime I write to Goose, his face with a shy smile would materialize in my head , and I no longer think of him of simply just a virtual thought in my mind.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Maybe, I whispered ...

Posted by Hippobean at 11:29 AM 2 comments
The morning found us back in Ginza shopping. I ate so much noodle during the week that my stomach had finally rebelled and I was determined not to stuff it anymore, but as usual, my lame will was succumbed to my watering mouth at the sight of all that gorgeous, colorful and tempting food at the basement of the department stores. I chewed on the fish cakes all morning long, with each one more delicious than the last. M. was quite content with her fruit gelatin and sticky rice scoops wrapped in tofu skin (even though she wanted the rice steaming, but the lady at the food counter wouldnt budge). We just sat on a bench on the pedestrian only Chuo-dori (they closed off the street in the afternoon) and munched. Riding back to Narita, we crossed Tokyo Bay (hm, did I miss it on the way into Tokyo?) and unexpectedly, the high rises and overpasses begged me to return to the city with no character. Maybe, I whispered. At Narita, while I was finishing the last of my fish cakes, the terminal suddenly swayed back and forth for a good full minute. Everyone just looked at one another and I got up from my seat and slowly backed away from the tall glass windows (I was watching a JAL take off!) and continued biting my snack. Then the terminal swung again. Now everyone was talking in Japanese. Nobody was sure if it was an earthquake or what. I wasnt too alarmed. It didnt shake or tremble like the ones on the west coast. Later I found out it was indeed an earthquake, 5.+ magnitude. Japan being unhappy that it didnt measure up to my expectation and high hopes, and wanted me back for a second chance to redeem itself? Maybe, I whispered!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday, July 22, 2005

Felt cheated!

Posted by Hippobean at 9:21 PM 0 comments
I felt cheated. Didnt want to leave Kyoto. Didnt see what I wanted to see in the ancient capital where I dreamed of shoguns with topknots, samurai swords, wooden buildings with wooden sliding doors, girls in kimonos and Japanese flipflops, rickshaws and paper parasols, narrow cobbled stoned alleys lined with noodle houses with cloth banners. Perhaps there would be some other time. Two and half hours of smooth Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Someone sat on my reserved window seat and I loudly and impolitely asked him to remove himself. They must think we're so rude! No wonder Japanese dont like foreigners! The bullet trains zipped through cities and towns, and everytime a train passed by on the opposite tracks, I got thrown back on my seat, and a second later, jerked back to upright position. Is the what 280Km felt like? The weather cooled down and we found ourselves in the 4-star Daiichi hotel in Simbashi. This time on the 12th floor overlooking (again) the rail tracks. Bullet and JR trains all crossed below us but we hardly heard any noise. The Daiichi was most comfortable. Again, with hot water pot, Asian tea cups, robe and slippers, full compliment of toiletry, and a bathroom Vegas style with separate shower stall. Since we didnt see anything of the Imperial Palace, we subway'd there but it was Friday and the East Garden was closed to the public. It threatened to rain. It smelled tropical rain. Nevertheless we walked to Ginza and started sampling every shop. The Sony Center was another disappointment. I imagined it bigger and brighter and more high tech. M. felt in love with the card radio, a radio that is the size and thickness of a credit card, and she bought it even though it didnt quite make the minimum for duty free. Matsuzakaya was another well known name from the past. We sat on the 2nd story cafe at the corner of Chuo-dori and Harumi-dori, at the very heart of Ginza to people/crowd watch. No locals in blue jeans or shorts, hair always colored. My feet were hurting big time from so much walking and my ankles and legs were swollen out of proportion. I couldnt stand up any more and needed to sit but M went for cosmetic shopping. The day ended quietly with McDonalds french fries, rice cake with smoked salmon, coke, BBC News (in the London subway, the police shot a terrorist suspect), and hot green tea from the hotel room.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Osaka ... finally

Posted by Hippobean at 11:03 PM 0 comments
Today we adventured out to the station and got our reserved shinkansen tickets to Tokyo and managed to figure out how to get the JR to Osaka. JR, hardly the romantic rocky and noisy Eastern European trains that I love so much. We arrived early as we wont be meeting Alex until 1PM. So we went in to Daimaru to shop. Why not? A familiar name that brought back memories of Hong Kong. And what did we buy? Givenchy towels! Alex told us about the Osaka Loop line, so we JR again to the Osakajo Koen station and waited for the dude to show up. As usual he was late and we almost gave up hope. Suddenly he materialized, with sweat all over, carrying his usual overweight backpack, a plastic bag full of fragile gifts (can you please Mom, take em home for me?), and fanning himself just like a regular Japanese. The castle would have to wait just a while longer while we lunched in luxury at the New Otami Hotel, just across from the station. Super expensive sushi we got, but hey, the place was well ac'd, on the table, nice iced green tea which the waitress in formal Japanese Kimono kept refilling, the huge glass windows offered a direct sight of the castle, perched on the hill, wasnt it worth paying more (a lot more)?

Then finally we got to the Osaka castle


and it looked and felt just like the pictures in the magazines. Twice burned down, re-built and moved, this castle had had its days! Completely ac'd inside, a tourist haven. Up on the observation deck, 360 view of the city, gusty winds blowing my sweaty hair, and I could just sit there on the railing for the whole eternity. A soft cool breeze gently brushed my cheeks and suddenly I felt like being finally in the Japan of my dreams. All around the city showed signs of vibrancy, ancient wooden houses intermitten with modern cement and glass high rises, everything, everything revolving around the hill with its ancient but rebuilt castle, that towered above it all, commanding and protecting, with its golden roofs and shiny pure snow white plasters. This was the Japanese city that I liked. Finally.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Kyoto ... where was the Japan of my dreams?

Posted by Hippobean at 8:06 PM 0 comments
The Nijo castle (Nijo-jo) was everything I've dreamed of Japan to be. Exactly like what I saw on TV and movies about ancient Japan. Built in 1603 by the first Tokugawa Shogun Ieyasu in the Momoyama architecture, this castle offered a tour of the inside of the buildings, where we could admire every room. It is just like what we've seen in the Japanese movies. Sliding wooden doors with paper, matted floors, pictures of tigers and leopards on the walls, Tokugawa crests in gold on every door. I liked it very much indeed. The wooden floor on the hallway around the building squeaked when we walked on it. This was accomplished by having cramps under the floor that moved up and down with pressure on them, creating a friction between the nails and cramps. This was done purposely so that the Shogun wouldnt be surprised by anyone approaching. Great technique. Because of the bird-like sound, it was named the Nightingale Floor. The main building has gilded ornaments on the facade.

Nijo castle

This would probably be the highlight of the entire trip.

Next a brief visit to the Golden Pavilion, the Kinkakuji temple.


The main building the Kinkaku was originally built to be a villa for the 3rd Shogun of Ashikaga, Yoshimitsu. After his death, according to his will, the villa was converted into a Zen temple. The original coating of Japanese lacquer was replaced with a new coat of gilding with gold-leaf. It's indeed very beautiful.

Our next stop was the Imperial Palace


where we had to filled out a form, disclosing our age and shoe size, lined up 4X4 and marched into the precinct. By then it was noon heat and the place offered no shade. We couldnt go inside the buildings so we just walked around in the courtyards. I was ready to pass out in this heat. I didnt think I saw anything there. All I wanted was to get back to the air conditioned bus.

In the afternoon we drove to nearby Nara to see the enormous Buddha in the Todaiji Temple


inside the 'Deer' park, where pathetic 'unbashfull' deers roamed around and mingled with Homo Sapients, nagging for 'deer cookies'. None of them were as sweet as Bambi.


They told us these deers like to eat paper so be mindful to close the restroom doors lest they come in and lunch on the toilet paper, used or otherwise!

Last stop before retiring to the much needed hotel bed was the colorful Kasuga Shrine with 3000 stone lanterns.


The main shrine building was covered in Asian vermilion (what else!) and it's indeed much more pleasing to the eyes than the otherwise dull and dark temples.

After another very humid and hot day, I was so ready to escape back to our tiny but comfortably ac'd hotel room, with a view of the Kyoto station, where every 3 minutes a shinkansen would greet me.

Where were the sentimental, nostalgic, romantic Japanese alleys of my dreams?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Fuji, Shinkansen, Hakone and disappointed

Posted by Hippobean at 10:31 PM 0 comments
Two hours by coach and we arrived at the foot of Fuji.


Although the day was a bit clearer than yesterday and we could see the whole of the yama, the top was covered in clouds. Up on the fifth station, there was nothing but touristy souvenir shops (where they sell Fuji air!) and lots of tourists and hikers. Fuji loomed just above us, monstrous, large and dark but otherwise not impressive. It is not a mountain the Hippo likes.

In Hakone, we took a boat ride across the lake Ashi and then the 'Ropeway' (cable car) up to the summit. Komagatake is the central volcanic cone of the Hakone range, 1327 meters high. The area possesses a twin volcano which exploded 200 years ago and created the Ashi lake. The summit normally offered fantastic view of Fuji, but the day was misty and we didnt see Fuji.

Late in the afternoon we Shinkansen to Nagoya and then to Kyoto.


The bullet train was fast, smooth and comfortable. But it lacked the romanticism of old trains that rocked and jerked. It felt like riding on the Monorail. Very quiet. M. discovered a phone and tried to buy a phone card by inserting 1000 yen note into the machine but it kept rejecting the note. After a few more tries, she decided to use the one that had a different image on it. It bought it! Mind boggling! And so she finally talked to Alex. We will call him again the following day to make plans to meet.

Perhaps my teenage dream and hope of this land were set too high. I didnt find Japan so far to equal my expectation. I am disappointed. Perhaps Kyoto would be better?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

Moshi moshi ... from Tokyo

Posted by Hippobean at 9:58 PM 0 comments
Moshi moshi, Alex-san ite kudasai? It was followed by a flurry of colloquial Japanese of which I didnt understand a single word. Eh, sumimasen, eh, wakarimasen, choto mate kudasai - go get that girl from JTB! That was our intro to Japan. Alex wasnt there. We would have to call again.

I grew up fantasizing about Kenji Sawada, Momoe Yamaguchi and countless other Japanese singers and actors. I loved their sentimental TV shows, their fashion, their music and their culture. I fell so in love with their language I even took a whole semester of Japanese at CSM. And I dreamed of being there someday. Now that I'm finally here, the magic seemed to have evaporated. I imagined being here and instantly some favorite Japanese song would spring up in my head. No music was in my mind when the plane landed.

When our friendly limousine bus from Narita stopped at the air terminal, the porters took out some of the passengers luggage and bowed to the bus while it sped away. Welcome to polite Japan!

In the morning we wanted to have coffee to go but couldnt find a single place that offered coffee to go, not even at a 7-Eleven. We finally got it at McDonalds. Sometimes, thanks God for fast food joints! The young girl at the counter gave me my receipt on both hands and with a bow. I wondered how much she made an hour working at McDonalds.

Our first stop was the Tokyo Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower but painted Asian vermilion. One can see the whole capital city in 360 degrees, even Fuji on a clear day. But not today. The day was misty, humid and hot. Two glass windows on the floor revealed the street below. I put my foot on one and took a picture.

Tokyo Tower

Next, was a brief glimpse of the Imperial Palace.

Imperial Palace

Then on to the Asakusa Kannon Temple


(did you know that Cannon was named after the Kannon god in Asakusa?) filled with tourists and buddhists praying, hands joined palm to palm, heads bowed, burning incense in a dangerously fire hazardous day, and shaking the bowl of fortune sticks, hoping for a good fortune that day. The temple's ceiling had very colorful Asian paintings. Next, a stop at the Tasaki Pearl where they showed us how to make cultured pearls. I felt sorry for the mollusks. You had to kill one to extract the membrane to put it into another shell. Good thing I never had any cultured pearls!

In the afternoon we ventured out to Shinkuju to find the advertised cybercafe. Instead we discovered affordable udons. Rather upscale this district was, with lots of financial high-rise buildings, not likely a place for a cybercafe. M wanted to see the Meiji temple since it looked close enough on the map. When we got out of the subway station, a multitude of young people were about. Hair spiked and dyed blond and red and purple, bodies strapped in knapsacks, denim jeans and Nike sneakers, our first sight of young Japanese. As it turned out, this area was famous for young people. After a brief visit to the Meiji temple (a long walk to the main shrine, nothing in particular to see, only empty sake barrels), we finally ran into a cheap and slow internet place in Roppongi. We got an email from Alex and finally made econtact. While waiting for M to finishing typing her emai, fighting and cursing the Japanese keyboard, I picked up a pamphlet and discovered Manbo, high speed internet, your own private booth and free drinks, just a few blocks away! Too late now. We were hungry and it's getting late. Perhaps when we return to Tokyo on our last day. After a ramen and gyoza dinner, we subway'd back to Chiyoda and got lost and couldnt find our hotel.

I think a city without street names is very romantic but hardly practical. Well, afterall nothing romantic is practical. There would be many more times when we got lost in Japan! I didnt like Tokyo. It got no character and no architecture.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Little trepidation ... too rushed ...

Posted by Hippobean at 10:27 PM
Tried hard to finish the Build Status tracker but got so tired I finally gave up. Got as far as doing the header sorting on demand, and updating all the pages, and put in validations. Dead tired! One of the goals this quarter is to learn the Mac build/deployment process. Should be fun. I want to learn this stuff. The DVD Player crashes with 'initialization failure' and Firefox 1.0.4 wont launch. Tomoli will need to take Mini to the Apple Genius Bar. Hope they can fix it and dont need to send in for disk repair. I think tho the disk is corrupted. Major pain! Got all PowerPoint assignments done and already graded. 95 pts for the midterm but screwed up in the Web Feature one. Ironic! How was I supposed to know that the original .ppt has animation schemes that wont show on the Mac? Lost .1 pt for that. What a joke that class is! Discovery's launch was scrubbed! Angus got the NASA live webcast ready on his PC (yuck!) and I was ready to go watch it at NAS on the big screen. We both were disappointed. Now if they launch on Sat, I wont be there to see it lift off live. Tom called from Oregon. Having fun with the kids (T and Isabel). Alex arrived safely and posted a quick note on his blog ( Hm, hard to find internet access in Osaka huh? I think Tokyo and Kyoto should be better. If it is so, I'll post. Hot, humid, muggy there, and rainy. Not sure if I'd like it but really (finally) looking forward to it. Just not enough time to enjoy the pre-trip bliss, and gear myself psychologically for it. Take whatever comes. Would be fun nonetheless. You'll find out how much fun it really is, if you read here ... stay tuned!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

Summer ... where is the heat?

Posted by Hippobean at 10:55 AM
And so another quarter is over. I got an A in both classes. Just barely made 91pts in Travel. Whew! And so summer started and with it, PowerPoint. Actually quite fun, but a bit time consuming. Alex is departing today for Japan, and we are going next week. I need a vacation. For the last 7 days or so, I cramped Flash on him and he actually picked it up quite fast and even did a good piece on the MM commercial. I'm quite impressed. But he flaked out on me at the end, and didnt get to the clips/AS/sound portion and never got the final off the ground. Ah well, a kid is a kid. Finally completely re-installed my system at home and now Flash is once again healthy and singing. Was quite a nightmare! Work is busy, finally getting to get my hands on the builds status tracker and a draft on the DTS re-design. Ryan loves my design. Totally CSS and no tables, no image rollovers, just a nice logo created in FlamingText, CoolMetal with Blippo font. I love it. We missed June by a day in Vegas. I didnt know she and Cal were going there until when we got back and got her letter. They stayed 2 nights at Wynn and then at Caesars. We hoped around from the old Hilton Vacation Resort behind the Flamingo to the new gorgeous one across from Sahara, next to Circus Circus and then on an impulse, we stayed an extra night at the Venetian. I could never get enough of Vegas. Maria got her dream when we stayed over night at Desert Spring/Palm Springs. In the morning, we drove through Palm Springs and got lost again. Same story as last time. The Embassy Suites was very nice and the area pretty. It was a quick get away but I came back more tired than ever. I must be getting old. These kinds of road trips are beginning to take a toll on me ... staying up late, long drives, ... sigh! Summer is finally here, but it's been cold. What happened to the heat?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Good or Bad, Still Ends ...

Posted by Hippobean at 12:02 AM
It's been a while since I posted. I've been busy because the class kept me busy. Work at NAS is still good and I've got more work than my 20 hrs can provide. Still Cath says "she's been making the web pages updates in an amazing rate". It took me a bit longer than I expected to crank out the Servers/Peripherals app but still Cath said I did it quite fast. When summer comes, I really do hope I can re-design the DTS homesite. We are once again at the end of the quarter. Travel class was good. I understand the industry so much better now and got lots of good resources. And I'm glad this also means the Flash class is coming to an end as well. With Greg's fantastic generosity, I got the final done way ahead of time (he even wrote the entire script for me, the script I dubbed 'One Script To Rule Them All'!). It was a battle to just get over the assignments and endless exhausting hours just to go through her modules, reviewing other classmates work and participating in the class forum. And endless hours trying to make my midterm less boring. Sometimes I think I just aint got the creativity and design ability to make it. But so far Marcia's grading seems fair and objective. I shouldnt be so hard on her. Let's see what grade she would give me for the final. I'm glad it will be over in a week! About the only fun part was learning about clips behaviour from Greg. Without him life with Flash would be plain dull! Strange that Jill saw his name on my credits page and thought they went to the same high school. Something about Greg's sister being in her class. Small world this really is. And Tom didnt seem too excited about Plate Tectonics. Perhaps he expected more jazzy animation? Dunno. But I promised and I delivered. I'm halfway through the internship. Marti was right. One year which seemed so awfully long at the beginning, goes by very quickly. And we got a new dude in the group - Craig. He's quite cute and nice. From what the guys said, 'we miss your bullshit, Craig', he seems a fun guy too. I like him. And Ansel is leaving us soon to go to CalPoly. And Lesya had just graduated (she cooked Ukrainian food for us the other day which was her birthday as well) and leaving us soon too. Strange and hard to admit but I'm gonna miss them!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

From Heaven to Hell

Posted by Hippobean at 12:47 AM
The quarter started less than ideal. Last quarter was unimaginably fun, an excellent job done at NAS and an enjoyable fun filled Multimedia class, and fool that I was in thinking I could make this quarter an even better one. I knew it was not to be repeated. This quarter's Travel class is surprisingly good. I'm surprised at the material that I've already learned so far. The textbook is particularly informative, insightful, resourceful and useful about the Travel career and industry. I like it. The Flash Intro class on the other hand is a total disappointment. I knew that Marcia, calling herself an overachiever and having a higher education on teaching, wont make a good teacher. Her lectures are confusing and instructions are poor at best and the amount of work she requires for her 4 units class is just too overwhelming. Collaboration (probably her Master's Thesis) is a good way to learn. However, imposing that on online and night class students just wont cut it. We have day jobs and have little time logging in to the Forums daily. Asking a fellow classmate to approve our assignments is an over burden for the student, especially one who is just learning the software. I knew her class wont be as good and I probably wont learn as much compared to Greg's but I gave her a chance and see how it goes. It didnt go well. Right off the bet, there was a clash. She welcomed each student by responding to their Intros personally and I didnt get any welcome. Instead she suggested I should wait and take Greg's class instead. She didnt like me from the beginning and I didnt like her from the beginning. I've contemplated in dropping it and looked for another class. There wasnt any that I'd like to take. So I'm sticking with it, possibly wasting my time and energy. The damage was done and now nothing to do but to consider that a challenge and see how far I can go and see how objective she can be and what grade she would give me. It would be interesting to see how she responds to my assignments. I'm ready to suffer a bad class. sigh.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Monday, March 21, 2005

Quarter ends ...

Posted by Hippobean at 2:42 PM
Winter quarter 2005 had rapidly coming to an end. Work at NAS had been evaluated as excellent on all accounts. More projects to come, including one with Postgres. MMTools' last week this week. So far Sandi had shown all my work to the class and I was blushed to the roots. I will post all my work to my website so all can enjoy my warped creativity. Strange that I didnt really want to take this class but needed 5 units and didnt want to repeat any classes. It turned out to be the funest class I've ever taken. The technology is fun to work with, the classmates are nice and I've really enjoyed it all. And learning from Greg has sparked my love for Flash. Things in life is usually like that. When you least expected or wanted, wham, it turned out to be the bestest ever. Next quarter will be real Flash and a Travel Career class (hope Foothill wont cancel classes again). One chapter ends and another begins ... cant wait to do more work next quarter. But this one had been so enjoyable, how could I make the next even better? Tough act to follow ... really!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Nothing Venture, Nothing win

Posted by Hippobean at 5:27 PM
I looked at my rearview mirror and there was this woman driving behind me waving like mad. I thought i t was just another crazy Apple employee. It turned out to be Yin. I worked with her for 9 years! Later I saw Pedraum at the Company Store. It's been 5 years since I've been to the Infinite Loop campus. My life at Apple had left indelible scars on my heart. I've got exciting and risky adventures and had met new fun people since, but still every little glimpse of anything Apple still brought nostalgia. Regrets? Sometimes it seemed so. But if I havent ventured out and away from Apple, I wouldnt have gained any Brave New World - warped colleagues and out-of-this-world clients at Vicinity, a small bittersweet taste of Google, playing There all day long, eye opening NASA, love for Flash. Like Sir Edmund Hillary said 'Nothing Venture, Nothing Win'. A past that was good and memorable, a present that is fun and still challenging, a future promising ... ? The Hippo aint doing too bad! Now fast forward to the next fun ...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Habitability != Life

Posted by Hippobean at 3:52 AM
Extreme Environment - Habitability = conditions that may once have been favorable to life. Such as evidence of abundance of water found in the Gusev and Meridiani craters on Mars by the MER rovers Spirit and Opportunity, water that started early and ended early. We're talking about 3.4 -4 billion years ago. Water that smoothed and rounded the tiny rocks the scientists called Blueberries. Then by chance of a 'bounce' rock (that is the rock the rover accidentally hit and gets bounced to another location), Spirit landed inside the Endurance crater and found it deeper than the others, therefore offering more stratigrahpy to sample. More water in more ancient time?

That was the talk given by Dr Nathalie Cabrol, planetary geologist at NASA Ames (SETI Institute). Hippo had always been fascinated by Mars and had followed Pathfinder and now MER progress. The pictures shown by Dr Cabrol were stunning, incredibly detailed and realistic. Sand dunes not unlike the ones we have on earth, vast panoramic of the Columbia Hills with background of a sky with white clouds. One picture especially blew my mind, taken by Spirit at night that accidentally caught sight of a meteor shower passing through from Jupiter, and the one with the meteorite lying right next to Spirit landing site (with the heat shield deployed and not jettisoned!).

What was important for Dr Nathalie was not whether there once was life on Mars but what skills life possessed to survive in an environment of thin air and high UV rays? To attempt to find some answers, Dr Nathalie and a group of scientists went to earth's extreme environment, to volcano Licancabur, high in the Chilean Andes, where the altitude and shallow fast evaporating lakes resemble closest to Mars environment 3 billion years ago.

It is too late for Hippo to ever make it to Mars. But listening to these talks and seeing these pictures and QTVR's is virtually being there. Hail to Mars!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Shuttle Payloads - Columbia STS-107

Posted by Hippobean at 11:59 PM
When Columbia exploded in February 2003, the Hippo was still asleep. Tom told me later they saw a streak of light followed by several booms at dawn in Tahoe. Inside Columbia payload bay were containers of lab rodents who survived 16 days in space. That was the bio experiment FRESH-02 (Fundamental Rodent Experiments Supporting Health) managed by Marilyn Vasques, Science Payloads at Nasa Life Sciences Division. Vasques gave us a talk about how a scientific experiment got to be on the shuttle, her work and experience with shuttle payloads. This was the first time I actually heard from someone who knew and worked with the STS107 crew, who was at Columbia's launch, at Mission Control, and again at Kennedy waiting for Columbia to land. She never saw her rats again. Her story brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the most emotional seminars I've attended. Usually the tears were for overwhelming awe. This time I understood what it sometimes took to get us to where we are now.

Ordinary people like the Hippo does not know how the shuttle missions had benefited our lives. These experiments ranged from bioscience to biomedical, physical and space science, agriculture and technology and helped develop new products to use on earth.

Next time you see the shuttle on TV, remember the sunglasses you wear, the flavor in your food and the cosmetic your girlfriend wears.

To Improve Life Here
To Extend Life to There
To Find Life Beyond

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Posted by Hippobean at 3:34 AM
Cant seem to stop! This is so much fun the Hippo is staying up all night, skiping potty breaks, food (oh no!), sleep, feeding the stuffies ... I've already decided to take the Flash class in the coming quarter. My Flash assignment is finally done after hours working on it, and thanks for the help of the Flash instructor, I finally managed to halt that 12fps for any pause I want. Thanks Greg! So what's next? Sound is next and then finally, the much anticipated iMovie! She just cant wait!!!!

On the internship front, a very fun promising project is coming up. More PHP and perhaps Postgres or should the Hips stick to MYSQL?

And what else? A new Mac box!!!!

How much more fun can this year bring? Oh, there's more fun of course! Il Gatopardo's homeland! Sicilia in Sept!!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Heavenly !

Posted by Hippobean at 8:23 PM
The air at 6258 ft was cool, crisp and pure. The Norwegian called it ‘Mountain Air’. It’s good for the soul. It’s been 4 years since I’ve been to South Lake Tahoe. The view of the clear blue lake on the way up on the brand new gondola from the village was as spectacular and breathtaking as I’ve remembered it. We were lucky. The Weather was fine, sky blue with just enough white cumuli to give it some texture, the temperature bearable. Heavenly !

The new attraction was the new gondola right at the new Marriott’s Club complex, that took you up to the Nevada side. Shops, restaurants, an ice rink, a cinema. This was done after the European ski resorts, where the skiers could just walk out of their Inns, with their skis and boots and hop on the lifts to the mountain. Gone were the days when one needed to haul the ski equipment into the car and drive to the resort, park in the over crowded parking lot, and then carry the heavy skis to the lifts. Heavenly Village indeed!

We stayed at the Embassy Suites, right on the State line, next to the casinos and the new gondola. If you don’t mind paying a bit more (eh, a lot more), the suites are nice, service excellent, location super, with complementary breakfast buffet and Hour Happy. Really heavenly!

It was good for the Hippo to get away from the routine, cement, traffic, hectic schedule of school, and internship work, cold house, and be back on the mountains where she belonged. I felt refreshed. Heavenly to the max!

We are going back soon, very soon !!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Monday, January 10, 2005

First week at the Base and MMTools

Posted by Hippobean at 11:37 AM
Not painfull at all ! My first week at NASA/Ames went rather quick and smooth and fun. Ryan, my mentor, easy going dude, proved to be friendly, intelligent, sharp and good to work with. I'm already on a project, learning PHP (help, Goose!!!!). More on the project as I go along.

Sandi's Multimedia class proved to be quite fun too. Already developed a logo as the first assignment. When it's published, you can all see it and I need feedback/comments/suggestions/criticism (only good ones :-)
Next week, on to Flash ...

This year, each day is an adventure, hope it continues.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Adventures in 2005

Posted by Hippobean at 7:04 PM
Wow! The Hippo will be busy this year. A NASA/Ames internship, a multimedia class, a new cell phone, a new blogger! Will the Hippo rest ? Will she have time to travel ?

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