Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunnyvale Baylands park

'The Women's sports clothing store Title Nine sponsored a race.  And since it was close to home I signed up with my friend DF.  Now, given the name of the store, it should not come as a surprise that the race was 9 kilometers.  But did I somehow spaced on that and have been remembering it as a 5K.  So I have a little unanticipated soreness (even though we only ran 205 of the way).  But we got a great swag bag-an actual reuseable bag, Peet's coffee, and this neat-o necklace!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Birthday weekend in Disneyland

Yes, I am a big enough fan that we spent my birthday weekend in Disneyland!

We got a jump start when we arrived at the airport to find our flight delayed but hustled ourselves onto the flight that was just leaving-nice!  Clever E- booked us a park view room in the Grand Californian, my favorite for visiting California Adventure.  There are perks to the birthday visit-special photos of Disney characters, a lovely big bunch of balloons, a washcloth birthday cake, and a personalized Happy Birthday pin.  The thing about the birthday pin is that any cast member that sees it, then wishes you a Happy Birthday.  I knew this and didn't think it was a big deal and so put on my pin on my actual birthday....and it turned out to be more touching than expected.  Because really, these are people you don't know, and in fact you know they are being paid to say Happy Birthday.  And yet every single one of the wishes felt sincere.  Because in fact it is not EVERY single employee, it is many, but they all clearly took the time and meant it.  My favorite was the guy in the candy shop in Critter Country.  There he is behind the window making tray after tray of 3 marshmallows on a stick, which is the basis for 15 different versions of 'Tigger Tails'.  And I go to watch, at some point he looks up and points at my button and mouths Happy Birthday with a really big smile.  I say thank you...and go off and buy a Tigger Tail (a version with sugar-sprinkled, chocolate-coated carmel-covered marshmallows which took 2 days for the 2 of us to eat!!).

*Star Tours Spoiler Alert*
This is out first visit since the new Star Tours opened so of course we have to go....but we also know how incredibly popular it will be since it opened less than a month ago!  We decide to use our Magic Morning time on both Saturday and Sunday to see it as many times as possible.  That turns out to be a FANTASTIC plan, each day we made it on 3 times in the hour!  So, in case you haven't heard, they have a mix and max function for the Star Tours.  You start with 1of 2 different intros, a visit to 1 of 3 different planets, have 1 of 2 different transitions, and get 1 of 3 different endings.  In our 6 visits we got to see each of the different segments, and I won't detail it all for you, but you may get to see Yoda, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Cornel Akbar, Storm Troopers, and you may get to visit the wookie planet, the Death Star, Coruscant, Hoth, Jar-Jar Binks on his planet, and pod-racing.  So obviously all of this is cool-a really nice mix of the old and the new movies and variable stories (collect them all!).  But the really brilliant part, is that they now pick a member of the audience, who gets involved with the plot!  And the universe being what it is...I got picked on my birthday-yeah me!

We did an especially impressive job of maximizing ride time-I always like to tailor the trip to the groups interests and E- and I are all about riding our favorite rides with as little wait time as possible!  We strategize with FastPasses and timing options and probably walk back and forth more than the average visitor...but it is well worth it!  In addition to the many small rides, we rode Indiana Jones twice, Space Mountain twice, the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain all on Saturday. We also like to do some of the odd rides that we don't often visit.  Innoventions-meh.  The Davy Crockett canoes-the guides seem to be in training for the Jungle Cruise-awesome!  The other people in the canoe will most likely not know how to paddle, so you kind of want to just turn around and explain...just follow me, don't try to think!  Addition of pirates to Tom Sawyer Island?  Simple execution, but a nice touch.  And of course Star Tours 6 times!!

The Ariel ride is new since we were here last.  It's nice, but I somehow feel that it is lacking a little bit of soul...but maybe that grows on you.  They finally took down the Power Tower-and I never even rode it-nothing lost there!  The Toy Story ride is so much fun and I'm not sure why because it is really just a video game.  But everyone loves it and it is one of the few that we wait in line for.  We ride California Screamin' 3 times during the day-this is my favorite in the whole place, it is just such a perfect coaster!  

Of course we don't ONLY ride the rides here.  When we arrive on Friday we ride the rafting ride first, but then we hang out at the pool with lovely drinks.  We eat a turkey leg and ear of buttered corn.  Saturday night we have our super nice dinner at the Napa Rose.  We also exit the hotel through one of the very plain stair sets at the end of a boring hallway to discover that it is an exit that bypasses much of the downtown pathways to arrive at the park entrance-bonus! We also check out the night time street show Electronica.  The street entertainers get to wear cool glowing costumes and play frisbee, which is cool.  But LaserMan 3D is awesome!  LaserMan is a mime in a future outfit, with lasers, which sounds lame.  But when you see it, it is so well done that you may not realize it is a mime until it is too late and you have already enjoyed the show :0

Best Birthday Ever!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

SFMOMA Stein exhibit August 2011

Krista and I took in some culture by going to the SFMOMA's exhibit of art owned by the Stein's.  First I got to see her new lab-shiny!  Then we got slightly lost around Market Street (par for the course if I am going somewhere even slightly new-ish).  But we made it in and spent a good hour viewing the works that the Stein family (Gertrude being the most famous) collected, mainly Picasso and Matisse.  The collection is beautifully curated-they took family photos of the different apartments that the Steins lived in showing the art on the walls, and then placed those works in the room.  It flows chronologically as well so you get to see the artists changing.

Remembering what I learned from Tufte, I consciously did not read the introductions and looked first, or exclusively, at the art.  What I found is that I really liked Matisse and I prefer the sketches to the paintings.  Many of the sketches are quickly drawn-a family portrait on the back of a postcard, the happy dancing barbarians at the close of note (Hey Gertrude, How about I come over and we look at the Gaugins and then have lunch?  Picasso).

And the Picasso chicken sketch.

And the painting of the statue of the painting :)

For dinner we went around the corner to The Grove Cafe Yerba Buena.  Yummy comfort food, but modernized (chicken pot pie and mac and cheese), nice salads and drinks, and fun/funky atmosphere (medieval hunting lodge with lots of seating?).  I would totally go here again, though it sounds like it can get stupid busy and then there will be issues.

Nice evening out!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New York weekend June 2011, day 2

We take the opportunity to sleep in a little and when we get up we join the masses having brunch at the Galaxy Diner.  We get a little bit of everything-waffles, omelets, eggs Benedict, pastrami sandwich and mimosas!  I'm always amazed at how everyone manages to get all the plates and bowls and glasses onto the teeny tiny little cafe tables...but we manage and are well fueled for the day.

The High Line
E- and I visited The High Line the last time we were here and were super impressed, and now we hear that the next section has opened so want to visit it again, plus Mars has never been.  The only downside is that it is almost raining.  We've got some rain ponchos (thanks little apartment!) and it is not down-pouring, just kind of spitting rain once in awhile.  Clearly it has not stopped the rest of New York from going outdoors as the place is busy busy busy.  There is my favorite piece of art from last time-A Bell for Every Minute, but also a new one, Digital Empathy.  Especially if you have played Portal, I would recommend that you drink from some of the water fountains :)  Or check out the info about the art on The High Line page.

Rainbow City
So, this is pretty much impossible to explain.  Experimental play space?  Our experience was different than the happy pictures on the was damp and cold and no where near grass...but still wacky and oddball.  The best thing was they had food trucks!  Korean tacos!

Spicy rice cakes with cotija cheese (texture of octopus, which is a good thing?)

And fresh dumplings!

So really, how could we not be happy!

ET Modern
This is another favorite stop of ours.  If you care at all about the presentation of information you must read Tufte, even better go to one of his lecture series.  But he is also an artist and a visit to his gallery on Saturday, when he is often there to give tours is a nice treat.  He was in fact there and we did a whole tour with him where he talked about some themes that were familiar to me from his last tour-the play of light on surfaces, movement of the sculpture, whimsy, and using 'mistakes'.  But he also brought up something new to me-observe/interact with with the art before reading about it.  Once you have read/understood a thought, it can't be undone and it will be that much harder to let your mind follow the piece down a path of its own choosing.  I am totally a reader of information in museums, so this advice really spoke to me!  There is a new set of art he has been working on-the circus parade-very whimsical with the play of negative space and movement.  This is also the trip where I am enchanted with the small tong birds sculpture-last time there were only large ones, but the smaller size is just right!

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum
My favorite museum pieces are in situ, or when as much of the piece as possible is in the exhibit-the temple of Dendur in the Met, the Ara Pacis in Rome, or the Titan missile museum.  It doesn't get any bigger than the Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier, complete with aircraft, space exhibits and a nuclear submarine.  As it is docked at an actual pier, we got to see a cruise liner leaving port-something we will do one day, but with irony!  We only spent a few hours on the Intrepid, but managed to see almost everything, though at a rapid pace.  The submarine tour is a must-do if for no other reason than to get the tiniest feel for the living conditions that are pretty much the same today.  Serious respect for those who are willing to get crammed into a tiny metal canister with 40 others and live underwater.  I mean really, that's nuts to even think about!  There is currently a lego replica of the Intrepid-that is pretty amazing.  We didn't give quite enough time to the far end of the main exhibit hall which has all the hands on stuff.  You can lie on the submarine bunks, sit in a space capsule, and mess about with a bunch of science-type exhibits.  Ah next time!

After a quick nap and change into our evening clothes we leave a little early and check out Times Square.  Which is large and filled with tourists standing around.  I like that it is a pedestrian walkway/destination, but we don't need anything more than a look and we are off to the theater.  Before this weekend I had heard of Tom Stoppard, and then if someone said Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead  I would say, oh yeah, I've seen that, but that was pretty much it.  Seeing Arcadia however, has made me a fan.  It is for the same reason I like Sondheim, interesting characters in a slightly complicated plot.  No spoilers, because you will have more fun if you see it fresh.  I will point out the only pitfall of the complicated plot-sometimes the people in the seats next to you are too dumb to figure it out and have to comment on their confusion-annoying!!

5 Napkin burger
After the play we stopped for dinner at this place we have been eyeing, because what a great name (and is recommended by the apartment owner)!  It starts off a little noisy, but as we are pretty much the last seating of the night it turns pleasant and we have a lovely round of food and drinks.

We finish the evening with champagne at the bar across the way (we were the only ones there and as they try hard to drum up business they gave us a free round of peach-cello just before leaving) and crash off to bed.

One final classic New York treat before heading off to the airport-H&H bagels because the actual storefront is within walking distance of the apartment.  How cool is that!

We <heart> NYC

New York Weekend June 2011, day 1

Ah!  What happened to the summer!  I had excellent intentions of staying up to date as I went on trips...but somehow that fell apart.  Oh well, now is a good time to catch up!  On this trip we went out to NYC and met up with another couple, Mars, specifically to see The Tom Stoppard play, Arcadia, on Broadway, but we managed to work in quite a few other treats as well.

Late flight
I love to take the red-eye on trips to the east coast and this one was no exception.  It was a great plan, E- and I were going to meet Mars' plane within an hour of their landing and off we go....except bad thunderstorms made our flights late late late!  Mars made it work and got on a better flight!  Us, not so much.   We checked out some of our options, but I was surprised there were so few...until I realized that JetBlue flies out of the international terminal at SFO, meaning all the other options were in the other terminal.  We decided to suck up the 4 hour delay and just arrive late morning.  Luckily Mars was flexible and met with our week-end landlord. Another place through AirBnB, though this was an otherwise empty apartment instead of staying with folks.  It turned out to be really great.  Every place has some issues, but it was more than made up for by location location location!  This was a theater trip and we were within walking distance-super nice at the end of the evening-we will do this again.

Eventually we all are assembled and hanging our in our little place and figure out that if we leave about now, we will be just in time for pizza lunch!  We head of course to Lombardi's Pizza.  On the way we come across The  Evolution store.  We are all science nerds, so we love this stuff (I used to visit Maxilla and Mandible after any visit to the Natural History museum and am pleased that NYC can handle two of these types of stores!).  We resist buying would I carry back that extremely fragile ostrich egg?

So, you are in New York and you want New York pizza...there are many great options (did you hear Jon Stewart rip into Donald Trump?).  But if you can't decide, just start with Lombardi's Pizza.  We learned all about the history of pizza on Scott's Piazza tour a couple of visits ago and it is easy to go back to the first New York pizza.  We managed to arrive at 11:45 and get seated immediately-had a lovely mozzarella and roast pepper appetizer followed by the margarita pizza.  mmm.

We are pleasantly full, but walk past Rice to Riches, which is trying to make rice pudding the next hip and trendy desert.  They are making a good go of it.  The rice pudding is fantastic-innovative flavors and toppings, the servings are generous, the store is fun (see hip commentary bubble) and you can order online.  What's not to love?

Now we are completely stuffed and have to roll down the street to our next stop-the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I adore the Met,  I could (and have) spent days in it.  But it is better to visit for short periods of time-just being there is weighty on the mind, in a good way, but still, you can only take in so much visual material at a time.  So the biggest problem is how to limit yourself-what do you pick in the time to do?  We start with a bit of a plan and then deviate as need be.  So we started off in ancient Egypt, but then had to find the restrooms and ended up wandering through Asia.  My favorite porcelain horse!  The new Jain exhibit!  Tibetian ritualistic rugs-disturbing flayed people depictions!  Before coming back to Egypt to rest at the Temple of Dendur.

A quick dash through the American Sculpture garden to see the Tiffany glass, wrought iron staircases and giant fireplace mantles on our way to a quick snack. Then knowing that we need to focus, we went to the photography exhibit and on the way discovered that about a million people were in line for the Alexander McQueen exhibit-I'm sure it was interesting, but boy you need some stamina for the crush of people.  The focus of the photography was on night photography and ran the gamut of styles.  My favorite was one of the ocean that you could barely tell was anything at all, no idea why it was so fascinating to me.  The most interesting was taken in Japan back in the day when couples (gay or straight) would go out to parks to get some privacy from the family, but because everyone knew it was happening, the couple could end up with 4 or 5 onlookers.  So the photo is of 5 guys peaking around the bush at the couple on the ground.  We couldn't actually decided if the photo was staged.  This photo also got a lot of attention from the museum goers-voyeurism, how human!  We then indulged in natural beauty by walking across the park past Cleopatra's needle, Belvedere castle, the Shakespeare in the park theater, and the big ball field.  Nap time before going out for the evening.

Cirque du Soliel
When making plans I realized that I had never been to Radio City Music Hall.  Never seen the Rockettes other than the Thanksgiving parade, and I think that is enough.  But it turns out they do other shows in the hall, and in fact this weekend was opening weekend for a new Cirque du Soliel show, Zarkana.  Great!  Sign us up!  So the show was actually a little different than the usual in that they were trying to tell a story.  Our consensus was that it didn't work out all that well, the sound was not good, so it was hard to even understand the story they were trying to tell.  The use of high-tech projections took away from the performers.  And even the parts of the story we understood felt forced.  But it was the opening, maybe they can do some tweaks and improve that part.  On the plus side this was designed to fill Radio City Music Hall specifically, and that is a tall order, mainly well executed. The pre-performance mingling of performers with audience was more than I have ever seen before.   And the acts were top-notch as always. I was most impressed with the hand sand artist.  She 'painted' a pile of sand into pictures, flowing from one to another.  It was so cool and something I'd never seen before!!

street food
We were too full from snacks throughout the day for actual dinner beforehand, but on the way back from the show we ran across irresistible gyros.  The patter was pretty good too, you ask for one and he gets the order and then says, What do you want on the second one?  So you have to be pretty firm to resist, but they were delicious, so it is hard to go wrong.  Home to bed-within walking distance!