Thursday, July 19, 2012

Batman: Dark Knight Rising - Sneak Preview

Not only does my business take me on travels around the world, but occasionally we take flights of fancy with our clients. Thanks to Citrix, Microsoft, HP, and Allied Networks we were able to see the newest in the Batman series 10 hours before the midnight shows launch.

The newest in the Batman series picks up some time after The Dark Knight's conclusion. It stays true to the events of the previous movie and includes the elements Batman fans look forward to. There are the tried-and-true Batman motorcycle as well as a host of new technology created by the brilliant Lucius Fox. The new villain, Bain, is truly larger than life. He brings an evil to Gotham City that threatens to destroy it. The Cat Woman is back, in clingy black leatherette and silver stilettos. Ever so much like a real cat, we are never sure of her motives until the surprise ending.

Just as the Joker forces him to "confront everything he believes" in the previous movie, this movie shows Bruce Wayne's inner struggle to rebuild himself in a crime-free city that blames Batman for the death of a beloved character from the previous movie. The love affair between Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes drives the character and leads to tremendous torment and struggle. Yet somehow, Bruce Wayne and Batman triumph over the evil villain and their own inner struggles to save the day.

Did I mention the twist ending? No spoilers here, but it was very satisfying.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Consider the lilies in Modoc

There is a beautiful place to hike, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Soup Springs Campground in the Modoc National Forest is peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. The hike and campground begins with a beautiful field of corn lilies. They look like a loose cabbage with a tall stalk in the center.  I don't know if we were early or late, but we missed the flowers in bloom. Despite that, the field was quite green and beautiful. It was a real eye-catcher out in the wilderness. There were so many.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Plaza Satelite - HIgh Brow Mall Art

I was warned against wandering around Mexico City alone by my translators. However, they both agreed it would be safe for la Americana to take a solo taxi cab trip to the Plaza Satelite (Plah' -sa Sa'-teh-lee'-tuh) shopping mall. However, strict instructions were given on where to go from the mall to find a safe taxi back to my hotel.

Once at the mall, I was charmed by the beautiful artwork on display. This graceful metal sculpture and the bright, airy arching roof give a feeling of unlimited possibilities.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Transformers 2 Mexico City

During my visit to the Plaza Satelite (Plah' -sa Sa'-teh-lee'-tuh) shopping mall in Mexico City I came across what at first struck me as a very creative piece of Mall Art. But I was puzzled by the unending stream of parents with cameras and small children. When the crowd finally cleared, I realized the Transformers had made a visit to Mexico City.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Blog Carnivals

Part of our responsibility as a member of the blogosphere is to share useful Blog Carnivals with our readers. Following is a list of some travel blog carnivals.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Skull Cave

 For those interested in volcanoes or caves, Lava Beds National Monument is well worth the trip. During the drive you will enjoy the spacious vistas for which the West is famous. Once in the national park you will have more caves than you can visit in a day. Despite the total absence of built-in lighting, Skull Cave is a beginner's cave. There are hand rails and metal stairs, but you must provide your own flashlight. Without it, a mistep could send you plunging into the dark.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is a Venus Transit anyway?

Back on June 5 the song King of Pain, by the Police, was running through my mind along with thousands of other Californians. I was fortunate to be near the Auburn Dam Overlook as I wrapped up my business for the day. I joined a crowd of hundreds to enjoy safe viewing of the event organized by Don Maccholz and a band of dedicated amateur astronomers. To see an excellent write up of the event, visit  Venus Transit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Traveling with Pets in California National Forests

I'm going to break one of my rules and share the names of my traveling companions in this blog. Angus gave me permission to photograph him for this article. I asked him to spread his wings, and this beautiful Macaw graciously obliged.

I was most surprised to meet such a handsome fellow in an unlikely place named Likely, CA. This Mackaw travels in a spacious room in an enormous motor home with a mated pair of humans. He converses with them during their travels and gives his opinion on the DVDs the humans provide for his entertainment. His neighbors in the upstairs flat are much smaller, but equally beautiful representatives of the avian family.

Buddy the Wonder Dog was at the top of his game on the Big Foot search. As the 5 day migration of humans into non-urban territory was wrapping up, he became quite animated as he tried to alert another mated pair of humans that a small, furry hitch hiker had stowed away on the undercarriage of their truck. They graciously accepted his warning, but chose to drive on to their urban territory without verifying Buddy's report.

Bixbie the Wonder Weiner showed the group that it is not the length of your legs, but the size of your spirit that matters in a wilderness hike. He accompanied the mated pair of humans who provide his ecosphere on a mile and a half hike up the Soup Springs trail in the Modoc National Forest. Brave little Bixbie hiked up and down an altitude change of 700 feet during the mile and a half hike.

Sadie the sweetheart accompanied her male human as he motored around the 6900 yard golf course. Thanks to this white German Shepard's expert coaching, her human male was able shoot an 84 on an incredibly windy day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aztec Pyramid of the Moon - Beware these 2 tricks

Traveling in Mexico would not have been my first choice, but I go where the clients need me. Luckily for me, a quick web search showed that there are some pretty cool sites to see in Mexico City. If you have a chance, take the time to spend a day climbing the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the moon. But beware! Even my spanish-speaking companion was tricked by the following.

1. Everyone who acts friendly is NOT a park ranger with your best interests in mind. The friendly fellow with a handful of flyers is NOT an employee of the park, he is a hawker for the vendors at the park. His job is to make sure you park near a gift store and buy something.

2. Don't be fooled by the people whistling or pointing at you, then motioning you to park in front of them. These are NOT park rangers, they are vendors trying to get you to park in front of their restaurant. This restaurant is probably a very long way from the entrance to the park.

The park is BIG, so be prepared before you go and know the layout, where the parking is, and where the entry points into the park are. If you want to try one of the restaurants at the park, please indulge and enjoy. But don't be mislead into parking, then finding out you are not at the park entrance.

One other word of advice: It is quicker and closer to park near the first pyramid, then walk to the second pyramid. Don't go back to your car and drive around the park to the second pyramid. It is a much longer walk and the gift shops are much more expensive.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Close Encounters of the Smithsonian Kind

Our family vacation included a stop at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. They've reworked the exhibits since the last time we visited and the layout is an excellent showcase of the U.S. exploration of space. We saw Mercury and Apollo capsules, the lunar lander, the Apollo-Soyuz space station, the Space Shuttle, Space Ship 1 and other experimental aircraft, satellites galore, and lunar rovers. It was a space lover's dream.

As we wandered away from the beaten track, we found this odd little out-of-the-way display. A quick question was asked:
"What is this?"
Without even thinking twice, I said
"The mother ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
"Right the first try!" I was told.

I was suspicious, and walked around the display case until I found the placard on the exhibit. Yes, I was, in fact, correct. This is the very model that Steven Spielberg's crew used when filming that famous scene. Wow, now I've seen everything!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scars On Broadway in Dallas?

While on my way to Argentina, I had a rather extended layover in Dallas Fort-Worth airport. Although I've been to this airport before, this terminal was new to me. This sculpture looks like a cross between the Emerald City and a surrealistic vision of On Broadway. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Women Freedom Fighters - WWII Style

During World War II, Japan launched a war of aggression against China, killing an estimated 10 to 35 million Chinese, followed by the brutal and unwarranted attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese began to fear an invasion and prepared their people to fight house by house if necessary. This photo was on exhibit at the National Marine Museum and shows how Japanese housewives were being trained to fight tanks and machine guns with pointed sticks. This exhibit saddened me greatly.

Unlike the Japanese, the U.S.'s goal was simply to end the war, not murder millions of innocent Japanese. We would not have attacked Japan had it not been for Pearl Harbor. And when we did attack, we only attacked 2 cities, though it was with overwhelming force. Our goal was to end the war with the lowest possible casualties. We succeeded.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wishbone Ash in Texas

Every airport has its own unique style. True to form, everything is bigger in Texas. Does this count as art, architecture or humor? I'll let the reader be the judge.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Answer: To the Universe - And Beyond

I haven't traveled from home much lately, but my drive to explore must be satisfied. So I decided to spend some time on Galaxy Zoo, which I first found out about from an astrophysicist at CalTech. This is just the most far-out traveling I have ever done, visiting the ever-expanding edges of the known universe.

Galaxy Zoo is an on-line science web site started back in 2007. Astrophysicists were literally drowning in data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and later the Hubble space telescope survey. What to do? Why, use the internet to solve the problem and invite volunteers from the general public to classify the deep space objects. According to a member of the team behind the project, Kevin Schawinski, "The human brain is actually much better than a computer at these pattern-recognition tasks."

Sounded like fun to me. I ran through the on-line tutorial, explored and classified some galaxies, then promptly forgot about it for 3 years. But after my last astronomy club meeting, I was reinspired to visit "The Zoo" again. And I can't believe what I found! This image is pretty exciting stuff. All my amateur astronomy friends have never seen anything like it before. It may be the result of galaxies colliding sometime in the far past. I've forwarded the image on to some researchers. We'll see if anything interesting comes of it.

To the Universe - And Beyond

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Three Stooges

Big Business Icons or Classic Comedy?
I recently visited a sales business unit of a large multinational corporation. This is one of the hubs of "making things happen" for this company. The employees on this team represent the company to its clients and its products are expected to solve problems that have a direct impact on the bottom line.

I happened to glance over at a nearby conference room. It was painted in bright colors, had a very professional looking meeting table, brand new chairs, flat-screen TV monitor for presentations, and a refreshment bar. In short, it looked like a place where clients and employees could come together and do business.  But what was that poster on the wall? For three days, the mysterious images preyed on my mind until finally, I determined to detour from my usual route and investigate.

What I saw shocked me nearly to the point of ROFLMAO. After a quick glance around to make sure no one  was watching me, I pulled out my cell phone and snapped a quick photo of Larry, Moe and Curly, The Three Stooges, in their new roles as Big Business Icons inspiring the new generation of sales teams.

P.S. And now, for something completely different! This video is just odd enough to earn its title ROFLMAO.

Marriott's in Pasadena, CA

I was surprised to find there are a vast number of Marriott's hotels within blocks of each other in the Monrovia/Arcardia/Pasadena area. We chose the SpringHill Suites.

I was spoiled in South America, because in Buenos Aires and Lima the Marriotts are 5 star luxury hotels. In California, most Marriotts hotels are 3-4 star business hotels. The SprinHill Suites hotel is a small property, near the freeway, and with plenty to do nearby.

The hotel has a swimming pool and an exercise room.
We found the exercise room small, but functional. There were no weights, but there were two treadmills, a stair stepper and an exercise ball. I managed to work up a sweat, so no complaints.

Each room is a small suite, nicely laid out with separate areas to work, entertain, and sleep. A free breakfast was included with our room. Decor is simple, but attractive. Soundproofing is minimal between floors. At 10:45 PM what sounded like a troupe of gymnasts made quite a ruckus in the room above us.

Towels are functional, but not luxurious. They are folded attactively. All the usual amenities are provided, with a sea kelp theme.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Easy Cheesecake in Buenos Aires

While in Buenos Aires, I quickly fell in love with Siga la Vaca and enjoyed many a wonderful dinner there. Being a serious devotee of cheesecake, I was anxious to try the Argentinian version of this delightful dessert. Siga la Vaca served up a beautiful slice drenched in blueberries, almost a compote.

The blueberries were the perfect blend of sweet and tart.

The cheesecake was like no other cheesecake I'd tasted before. The texture was firm, similar to a flan. It was a much lighter flavor than even a whipped cheesecake from America. A palate-broadening experience.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Almandrada in Buenos Aires

While in Buenos Aires, my favorite restaurant was Siga la Vaca by the port. It is gourmet quality food served buffet style. The meal includes wine and dessert. This trip I decided to try the Almandrada ice cream. I was served a slab of rich vanilla ice cream, encrusted with almonds, and infused with amaretto flavor. In a word, it was simply divine.