Category Archives: Art

European Vacation – Italy

Italy was the next stop on our vacation. We visited Roma, Pompeii, and Napoli seeing all sorts of fantastic sights, including Colosseo (the Roman Coliseum) shown above.

Our first stop in Italy was to play with this dog in an apartment building that we eventually discovered was not the location of our AirBNB. It might have been the wrong building, but it was a happy mistake that led us to this dog!

Our AirBNB was a large, lovely apartment with stone floors and great kitchen and bathroom. It was near the Piramide stop, and the Piramide Cestia gave a nice visual landmark.

Italy was the first country we visited that was actually warm. We were thrilled to be able to put on some shorts and leave our jackets at home, although I admit it got a bit too hot! We stopped for a photo in front of the Colosseo on the way to find dinner.

This delicious potato, sausage, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil pizza was one of the best I had on the trip. We ordered it at Sapori e Delizie along with a ham, mushrooms, olives, and anchovies pizza as well as tiramisu and a cannoli for dessert. The second pizza was odd in that each quarter of the pizza had a different topping. How are we supposed to split that?!

We took our time walking home so we could explore, stumbling into Roma Pride. We caught it before it was at its peak, but it was fun.

For second dessert, we stopped at Il Gelato for salty peanuts, chocolate mad orange, and natural rice flavored gelato. This wouldn’t be our last gelato stop.

The next morning we started with the “Last Minute Roma” tour of the Colosseo with our tour guide, Isabella. Cameras weren’t allowed inside, but camera phones were. They could be brought inside in bags only. This proved a problem because we didn’t bring bags, but eventually they let me go inside with my DSLR on a shoulder strap. Once inside, there were tons of people taking photos. I don’t understand.

Naturally, I used it to take photos. Here’s a good shot of the upper areas as well as the lower areas. The ground floor of the Colosseum would have covered the area in the lower-left of the photo. Those were tunnels that ran underneath the floor.

Here’s a closer look right at ground level showing the tunnels. It was so cool to be walking through such an amazing structure that’s been standing for thousands of years. It’s crazy to think that I likely had ancestors who saw events here.

Some kind stranger was nice enough to take a photo of the four of us.

gem looked nice taking a short rest, although she also looks like she was questioning why I was taking a photo.

Anela and gem made friends with a horse outside the Colosseo too!

There was a small convenience store that sold this ice cream that Anela remembered liking from her childhood, so we bought some.

It didn’t look like much, but it was a nice treat.

Next we were off to the Vatican. What an amazing collection of art! Yes, I admit it wasn’t all obtained in the best ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed the museum.

I actually hadn’t realized they had such a large collection of pre-Christian art, which made for a pleasant surprise.

It must have taken so much skill and sophistication to properly capture the muscles and curves of the human body.

Look at the detail in the beard!

This was my favorite part of the museum. It seemed like the roof was glowing. Photographs don’t capture the beauty.

That didn’t stop me from trying though. Here’s a shot without us in the way.

The Vatican had a nice garden outside as well.

Even the spiral walkway was beautiful.

Not being a fan of heights, Anela didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as me, but she made it unscathed!

On our way out, we stopped by the Vatican’s post office. I purchased and sent some postcards while I was there.

We took a break from the Vatican to get some lunch at a oh-so-traditional Italian restaurant – McDonald’s! This bucket had three kinds of chicken. I think there were at least one type of chicken wing, but maybe there were two.

McDonald’s dessert game seems stronger in Italy.

After lunch we saw St. Peter’s Basilica, which was quite beautiful.

I liked the way you could see the rays of sunlight shining down.

Don’t they look lovely?

This looked really beautiful as well.

Back outside, we watched the changing of the guards.

And then we took a final selfie before leaving the Vatican.

For dinner, we bought an assortment of pizza from two fast pizzerias near our apartment. We ate a lot of pizza in Italy.

We started the next morning with a tour of Palotino and the Foro Romano (the Roman Forum). We walked through the Museo Palatino, which was short but had an interesting collection of marble samples from various regions. I jotted down “something square, Musea capitali” in my notes. Did we go there? What was that? I don’t remember.

Something tells me “LOSER” wasn’t there originally.

I don’t remember the significance of any individual building during the tour to be honest, but I liked some of these shots.

That’s a beautiful view.

This building looked really cool. I don’t know if I knew what it was at the time, but I don’t now.

Edit: gem identified it! This is the Altare ella Patria at Piazza Venezia. Thanks, gem!

Here’s a closer look at the flag and some detail of the building.

We walked to the Pantheon in Rome, a beautiful church built at the site of a former Roman temple.

There was a fountain in front that we used to cool off. We were really feeling the heat, so it was nice to dip our arms in the cool water. I sweat it was like a magic potion. You could practically see it rejuvenate Anela!

We took a nice photo in front before exploring inside the Pantheon.

We stopped by Federico Polidori’s leather shop. He’s known for hand-crafting leather goods. I actually bought one of the few pieces he didn’t make himself – an Italian army bag from 1955.

I had to haggle a bit, but I’m happy with it. It mostly got used to hold resumes and blank paper for interviews.

We stopped for pizza and pasta for lunch. I had cacio e pepe at the recommendation a friend. He was right. It sounds simple but was super delicious. Afterwards, we stopped at Very Buono Ice Cream for dessert and got another cannoli as well.

We wanted to visit a beach while we were here, so we took a train to Ostia Beach.

We got to play in the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea. I never thought I’d do that.

After splashing around, digging our feet into the sand, and collecting shells, we headed back toward our apartment. We had dinner at Novecentro Cucina & Pizza, across the street from our apartment if I remember correctly, and then headed to bed.

We started our last full day in Italy with Pompeii. Honestly, I thought it was underwhelming.

There were a few bodies in glass cases, but the bodies were removed from the ruins themselves, which I didn’t realize.

We still spent a lot of time exploring anyways. gem had to wait there so I could get a shot without other people being in the way.

Here Anela explores more ruins.

What are you pointing at, gem? I bet it’s the fact that the doorway was perfectly gem-sized.

After Pompeii, we headed to Napoli where we ate a ton more pizza. Our first stop was Donna Sofia.

We ordered two pies for the four of us, and they were both amazing. Dang, I’m hungry thinking about them.

After Donna Sofia, we went right next door to Di Matteo for more pizza. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as good as Donna Sofia!

We split up to do some shopping after Di Matteo. It started raining soon after, which was bad news for gem and Antonio since Anela and I were the only ones with umbrellas. While we shopped. a man who claimed to be the best salesman in Napoli tried to sell us some socks. I guess he wasn’t that good, because I didn’t buy any.

When we all came together again, gem brought us another pizza – this one from L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele. She had read about it, and it was apparently quite well-known for its amazing pizzas.

It was certainly delicious!

We picked up some desserts which we ended up sharing with some other tourists from the US.

After getting back to Roma, I wanted to go back to Il Gelato. I convinced the group by saying I’d buy for everybody.

There was fun art on the mirrors too! Here’s Joy from Inside Out.

And here’s Elsa from Frozen.

And lastly, here’s Olaf!

The next morning we signed our AirBNB host’s guestbook and took a train to the airport. Unfortunately, this is where Anela parted ways with the rest of us. The only thing that could cheer me up was more pizza!

European Vacation – Paris, France

After visiting Bruges, Belgium, we boarded a train to Kortrijk, Belgium as the first leg our day’s journey to Paris. Going to Paris was the motivation behind the whole trip – to visit our friends Jessica and Andrew in Paris. There transportation strikes happening in Belgium, but we checked in the morning and the trains were still running.

The train ride gave a little more time for some Papers, Please, but our luck ran out when we got to Kortrijk. By this time, the strike caught up with us, and trains were no longer running out of Kortrijk. And because we already used part of our tickets, we couldn’t get refunds. We ended up taking a taxi from Kortrijk, Belgium to Lille, France. Once in France, we took a train to Paris. We were late, but we got there!

I’m guessing we went to our AirBNB first, but I honestly don’t remember that. I just remember heading to Frame Brasserie where Jessica was waiting for us. Andrew was in the kitchen, preparing awesome food. For my friends who don’t know, the two of them used to live near me in California, but Andrew accepted a head chef position at Frame Brasserie, a restaurant in Paris inside the Pullman Paris Hotel.

Here’s Chef Andrew hard at work in the kitchen!

Here’s one of the dishes he prepared – foie gras on banana bread. I didn’t know those flavors would go well together, but it was amazing!

I don’t remember what each course was, but I know that I was impressed with all of it. So good!

After dinner, we went upstairs to a little balcony where we were able to watch the light show on the Eiffel Tower. It was pretty breathtaking. I wasn’t expecting to be as amazed at the Eiffel Tower as I was. It was beautiful.

Andrew gave us a little tour of the rooftop garden as well, including the chicken coop. The chickens were sleeping.

Jessica walked us back to our AirBNB, and we stopped to admire the Eiffel Tower more on the way.

Only gem and I were interested in Disneyland Park Paris, so we spent the day there.

We stopped for breakfast in Main Street, U.S.A. where I got a croque monsieur. (That’s not normally found on traditional Main Streets in the States, but I’ll forgive them. This little bird wanted some too and took a piece right out of my hand. Disney magic!

After eating, we went straight to Discoveryland, which is like Anaheim’s Tomorrowland. Instead of being purely futuristic, it’s themed after historical French figures’ visions of the future, making it retro and steampunk. It was awesome.

We rode Space Mountain Mission 2, Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain, twice in a row. It had a great steampunk feel to it and was one of my favorite rides there. The wait was seriously just a few minutes. Yes, it was a weekday, but I don’t think we ever needed to wait longer than 15 minutes. I think the one-day, two-park ticket was only about $50 (US), which is nuts. I guess Disneyland Paris isn’t as popular as the original.

Next we went on a walk-through attraction called Les Mystères du Nautilus based on Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Apparently there was a similar attraction in our Disneyland in the 1950’s.

After a submarine, it was time to hop in some cars for Autopia. I’m completely uninterested in the Anaheim Autopia but enjoyed the Paris Autopia!

When we heard that Buzz needed our help, we rushed to Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast to defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg!

gem even found a planet with her name in it – Gemkurnz!

After finishing with Discoveryland, we went to explore Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

I like this photo of gem and the castle despite the people in the background.

The castle had many stained glass windows. I prefer the one of Maleficent, one of my favorite Disney characters.

There’s a little balcony area on top that you can explore too!

It’s a Small World’s tribute to America started with the old west. I really enjoyed seeing this.

It also included the New York skyline, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hollywood sign (among other things).

For lunch, we stopped at Cafe Hyperion. I believe this was the Dark Vador burger. I couldn’t resist it. That’s also how I learned that Darth Vader is Dark Vador in French.

After riding Pirates of the Caribbean, we rode Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril. Unlike its California counterpart, this is more of a traditional rollercoaster. It’s also the first Disney rollercoaster to feature an inversion! While I enjoy our more story-driven rollercoaster, this was an awesome ride!

Frozen had a little section in the park with a photo-op and some sort of performance. We didn’t stay for the performance, but we did get our photo taken before we had to rush to the second park, which we didn’t realize was closing soon.

Walt Disney Studios is Disneyland Paris’ second park, and it’s based on a movie studio.

There were a number of neat things to see in the park, especially walking through the Toy Story section that was built to a scale as if you were a toy.

The park had an excellent rollercoaster based on Finding Nemo – Crush’s Coaster. Two seats face one direction and two face the other direction, leading to awesome drops in which you’re falling backwards!

While we were inside Disneyland Park, we were wondering where the statue of Walt and Mickey was and just assumed they didn’t use it in Paris. We were wrong! It’s in Walt Disney Studios!

My notes also mention salsa, rock, and line dancing in Disney Village, which is like Paris’ Downtown Disney. I don’t remember that. Did we do it? Did we just see it?

I wanted to stop for a photo with the magic broom on the way out.

And we got one of gem as well!

Next it was back to Disneyland Park to talk to ticketing about our tickets. We had purchased tickets online in advance, which means we had printouts and not physical tickets. She was hoping for physical tickets as souvenirs. At first they said they couldn’t do it, but when gem got sad, the man got creative. He printed out one of each ticket variation and voided them before giving them to her. How nice of him!

Back inside Disneyland Park, I took a photo of gem with the greeter at Phantom Manor, which is their version of the Haunted Mansion. How spooky and cool! We actually went through Phantom Manor twice.

gem also had an encounter with Abu, who ran up to her and surprised her!

We did some shopping while in the park too. I picked up some gifts for people, but there was one gift that was just too big – a blue Buzz Lightyear figure. I have no idea why he was blue, but I wanted it for Henley. Eventually, I knew I had a solution. I purchased a big Disneyland Paris duffel bag and the toy. Now I could definitely bring it home!

We ended our Disney evening with a fireworks and light show. It seemed like a combination of Disneyland fireworks and a show like Fantasmic or World of Color. There were fireworks, but there were also plenty of lasers and projects. It was awesome!

When the park closed, we walked through Disney Village to the train, where we waited at least an hour or so for the train to leave. We were really packed in there. Then it was hard to find our way home because of construction causing street closures. We eventually found a McDonald’s with Wi-Fi that allowed us to contact Antonio and Anela. We had a key to get into the apartment, but we forgot the code to the front gate! I told Antonio what time I thought we’d be back, but we ended up taking much longer. This could have been problematic, because without Wi-Fi, my phone wouldn’t work. Luckily he happened to see my message way late – just when we got to the gate. Great timing 🙂

The next day we headed to the Eiffel Tower. The base was much bigger than I expected.

Here’s a shot looking up through the tower.

Unfortunately, we could only reach the second story that day because the rest was closed.

That didn’t stop us from enjoying the view anyways.

After we came back down from the Eiffel Tower, we met Anela, Andrew, and Jessica at the FRAME Truck where we purchased some tasty tacos. Jessica did a lot of planning for us so we could squeeze as much in as we can. Her help was invaluable!

gem looks quite thug. I don’t know what she was doing here, but it’s great.

They also brought us these delicious macarons!

After lunch, it was time to jump in front of the Eiffel Tower! Here’s Antonio, Anela, me, and gem.

And here’s Jessica, Anela, me, and Andrew. Andrew looks a little derpy.

Lots of people seem to lounge near the Eiffel Tower.

Either Jessica or Andrew took this photo of the four of us.

Here’s all six of us in front of the Eiffel Tower!

What do you do after appreciating the Eiffel Tower? Explore some creepy catacombs, of course. We played some Heads Up on our phones and variations of charades while waiting in line, but then it was time to enter.

The descent! Jessica looks too happy.

gem looks scary in the catacombs.

Jessica, don’t be mean! Don’t worry; she didn’t touch.

Lots and lots of bones.

After emerging once more, Andrew took us to She’s Cake. They use She’s cakes at Frame Brasserie.

We split a few different delicious desserts.

After eating, we visited the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris at Montmarte, which was beautiful.

Even the drinking fountains are beautiful in Paris!

When it was time for dinner, we stopped at Le Consulat.

We shared an order of escargot, which tasted very similar to typical shellfish. I enjoyed it a lot!

I did, however, have to figure out how to eat it.

After dinner, we walked past the Moulin Rouge.

We finished our day with a visit to L’arc de Triomphe.

The next day, we visited the Eiffel Tower so we could climb all the way.

It was a foggy day, but I had fun.

Here I am enjoying that view, but I felt I needed a closer look.

That’s much better!

Just look at that amazing view! Okay, the view was nothing but fog, but it was still cool.

I forget if it was this day or the previous Eiffel Tower visit, but we talked to some of the soldiers at the base. Side note, it’s still very weird to me to see soldiers with huge guns just walking around. Anyways, we asked for Anela to get a photo with them. Their reaction was strange. Some seemed to say no, some to say yes, and one walked away. After a moment, I realized what was happening. They were smoking when they weren’t allowed to be smoking. Some of them put out their cigarettes and one just walked out of view of the camera. We got our photo!

We went to a market to get some lunch. This pastry was super good.

We also sampled some pink cheese. That doesn’t look like my hand though. Whose hand is that? Anela’s? Oh well.

I managed to purchase cherries in French! It was terrible French I’m sure, but a bit of Rosetta Stone helped. Here’s our haul that we ate in Jessica and Andrew’s apartment. Not shown was the McDonald’s that we bought as well, including the Le Croque McDo. How French! Man, I’m getting hungry.

Just look at this pastry! We stopped at Le Moulin de la Croix Nivert for tarte aux pommes et Paris Brest, two amazing desserts.

With full stomachs, we visited Notre-Dame.

Next we quickly saw the Fontaine Saint Michel.

By that time, we definitely some crepes, so we stopped at Creperie de Arts.

The best part of Creperie de Arts? Le chat! This cat was just chilling.

We also stopped at Amoroso Gelato because apparently we just can’t eat enough.

Of course we visited the Louvre, but we were unable to go inside. Due to the flooding happening in Paris at the time, they were moving all the works to higher floors in case the water got into the Louvre.

That didn’t stop us from having fun and goofing around!

Look at these two lovebirds. <3

Here’s a closer shot of the building.

Speaking of the flood, here’s a look at the water. You might not be able to tell just how much water there is from this photo.

I wouldn’t want to go sit on one of those benches.

Those are cars. The Seine rose so much, cars parked along the river were now under water.

May gem present to you… the Statue of Liberty!

Here’s a shot she took of me in front of it too!

According to the journal I kept, which was just a list of things we did, we also visited L’arc de triomphe du Carrousel, but I can’t find any photos of it. I can’t believe I wouldn’t take photos, so maybe I just got them mixed up. Oops.

Edit: I did just get them mixed up! I added a photo 🙂

For dinner, we went to Frame Brasserie a second time. On this visit, Andrew ate with us rather than being in the kitchen. He had his staff keep bringing us additional dishes until we were full. Amazing. As I’d expect, everything was so good. Here’s a collage of everything we managed to eat. Keep in mind there were six of us please :0

Look, FRAME has a foosball table! I don’t know who won, but I know we had fun – probably because gem and I were both terrible.

Sadly, this is where we said our goodbyes to Jessica and Andrew.

Before heading to our apartment for the final time, we walked around the Centre Georges Pompidou, which was near where we were staying.

It looks like it’s inside-out! It’s definitely an interesting piece of architecture.

While we didn’t go inside, we were able to appreciate it from here.

I’ll end this post with a final shot of the Eiffel Tower. The next morning we left our little apartment and traveled to the airport to fly to Rome. Thanks so much to Jessica and Andrew for spending time with us, showing us around Paris, sharing delicious food, and everything else. I wish I could see you regularly, but Paris is just a bit too far to visit for a weekend!

European Vacation – Bruges, Belgium

The next stop on our trip was Bruges, Belgium. We stayed at the Hotel de Goezeput, the only hotel typical hotel we used while in Europe.

This was the most laid-back and relaxing leg of our vacation – not because we didn’t do anything, but because nothing was really planned ahead of time.

We started with our traditional McDonald’s meal.

The best part of Belgium in my opinion was Chez Albert. We ended up grabbing snacks from this shop many times and got to know the owner, Sabine.

I particularly liked this statue. It might be called “The Lovers” or some variation on that, but I couldn’t find definitive information on the Internet.

We did some wandering around the city, including some exploration of windmills.

Here’s a closer look at my friends. It looks like they were up to something.

There was a hill near one of the windmills that gem couldn’t help but roll down! I might have done so too 🙂

When we got back to the hotel, we got ready for bed. gem and Anela played Papers, Please on my laptop while I showered. Glad they enjoyed it!

We started the next day with more Chez Albert. I told you Sabine would get to know us.

Chocolate is a must in Belgium, so we did some shopping. I really liked a shop called Chocolates & Happiness, which put cute quotes on their boxes of chocolates. I bought a few boxes to take home.

Next up was the “In Bruges” walking tour by “Can You Handle It? Tours” with our tour guide, Steve. It was a fun a little tour, and the highlight was probably the beer museum. I enjoyed Arthur’s Legacy (Limited Edition), Kriek Boon (a delicious cherry beer – my favorite), and Rosso Red Fruit beer. The tour also took us to Chocolaterie de Burg, a chocolate shop that came recommended to us.

Sometimes we have to take a quick break for a photo!

Here we all are with a canal behind us.

This is the Madonna and Child, sculpted by Michelangelo, in the Church of Our Lady.

And this is a touristy photo in front of it. Honestly, it was a bit lackluster to me, but I’m glad I got to see it.

Here’s another nice shot of us together.

We found a shop with a chocolate fountain and bought some sweets mostly so we could use the fountain. I dropped some of my chocolates though. Sad times.

Oh no! We were running low on sweets! Sabine could save us though.

We had dinner at ‘t Vagevuur because it offered a discount to people from the walking tour. The discount applied to a limited menu, and I wasn’t that impressed. However, we did run into Stevie again. For those of you not keeping track, we met her on a train in the Netherlands a few days earlier. How awesome is that?

After dinner we got some drinks at a bar and then stuffed ourselves with fries covered in various toppings from a little stand before heading back to the hotel.

The next morning we got some delicious bagel sandwiches from Sanseveria on our way out of Bruges. We met a couple from Atlanta who had breakfast with us. They were in Belgium for a conference. One of them worked for the CDC and was a public health professor at a university – pretty cool. After our tasty breakfast, we took a train to Kortrijk. We were supposed to continue by train to Paris, but that’ll be a story for next time.

European Vacation – Amsterdam

We left Ireland in the morning with our egg sandwiches courtesy of gem and flew to the Netherlands four our single night in Amsterdam. There were flight delays due to closures in Amsterdam, but we made it eventually. We also met a woman named Stevie on the train, also from the States. It was fun getting a chance to talk to her!

Here I am playing live action Papers, Please. At least that’s how I saw it.

We didn’t have much planned in Amsterdam, so we wandered around a little and took in some tourist shops.

When it was lunch time, we stopped at McDonald’s. As a reminder, Anela wanted to try McDonald’s in every country.

Chicken nuggets are weird in the Netherlands. Just kidding, that’s obviously not a chicken nugget, but I don’t really remember what it was.

Antonio fell in love with stroopwafels back in Ireland, so we had to stop for some at this outdoor market.

Now I’m really craving stroopwafels. I could go get some from Trader Joe’s, but they’re just not the same unfortunately.

After really enjoying our canal cruise in Copenhagen, we decided to take Blue Boat Company’s Amsterdam Canal Cruise. Honestly, it was a let down. Unlike the one in Copenhagen, this cruise used an audio guide rather than live tour guide. The boat also had a roof, which made photographing less fulfilling.

Despite the tour being less than stellar, the canals were very beautiful. How cool would it be to live along these canals?

If I’m remembering correctly, you can’t anchor new houseboats, which makes the demand for the ones that are already there much higher.

I don’t have anything in particular to say about this building, but I liked it!

Next we took Sandeman’s New Amsterdam walking tour, Red Light District Exposed, with our tour guide, Lisa. As you can conclude from the name, it was a tour of the Red Light District. One of the first things we saw was this condom shop, the Condomerie. Part of the reason it exists was to make using condoms more acceptable.

While not technically part of the tour, we did pass this delicious looking dessert shop!

Here’s an interesting little plaque on the ground. Also you can see a bit of Anela and gem in the corner!

It was fairly interesting learning the history of the Red Light District. It seems like it’s still a bit of a political issue, and not everyone agrees with its existence. As most people know, the red lights in the windows indicate that the woman is a prostitute. We also learned that a blue light indicates that the woman is trans. The rooms are connected to each other on the inside and can’t lock from the inside. This keeps people from entering, locking the woman inside with them, and getting out of hand. We also learned that the city tried to get male prostitutes as well. When they put advertisements out for male prostitutes, no one was interested. When they asked for men to have sex for money, then they got people interested. Apparently “prostitute” has a feminine connotation. Anyways, it didn’t work out. Men couldn’t go repeatedly and had trouble performing with women to whom they weren’t attracted. Pretty interesting, really. The tour took us throughout the area and gave us some interesting history before ending near a location called Theatre Casa Rosso. Apparently the owner of that establishment owns a large number of the shows, has a lot of money, and uses that money in politics to keep the laws and zoning in his favor.

After Indonesian food for dinner, we headed back to our hostel. When we were looking for a ride back, a found both a taxi and a rickshaw at the same time. The taxi driver seemed to get mad at us for considering the rickshaw and even talking to the driver (rider?). He actually started yelling things like “f— you you f—ing idiots! I’ll let you ride for half price! F— you!” Yeah, no thanks. You can give us the ride for free, but I’d prefer the man not cussing at me. We went with the rickshaw, got our ride to our hostel, and got ready for bed so we’d be ready to continue on our journey to Belgium the next day!

European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland

After England, we headed to Ireland. Besides seeing Jessica and Andrew in Paris, Ireland was my favorite country (countries). It was absolutely beautiful and had so much gorgeous nature. I could see myself living there happily. This post will probably have a lot of photos!

Driving in Dublin was crazy, but gem drove exceptionally! I didn’t drive the first day, but I did later. Driving on the right side of the car and left side of the street wasn’t really a big deal, but being forced to park and drive with most of the car on the sidewalk due to the small streets in Dublin was nuts.

gem’s a natural at driving on the wrong side!

First we walked to the Lansdowne Hotel for some dinner, Guinness, and to wait for a show in the basement.

The Irish House Party featured traditional Irish music and dancing. We sat right in the front row. It was easily one of the best evenings of my life. They were amazing.

Here we are with all the performers!

The next day we did some exploring in Northern Ireland. Perfect sign placement.

Our first castle was Carrickfergus Castle, which was super awesome. There sure are a lot of castles in Ireland though! Here’s gem, Antonio, and Anela in front of the castle.

And here’s me, gem, and Anela on top of it!

Anela seemed just a tad excited by the name of this boat!

Pretty close, right?

This castle wall seemed like the perfect place for them to pose.

I have a thing for silhouettes. I thought Anela and gem looked cool here in the window.

gem leans back all cool on top of the castle. She’s just chillin’. No big deal.

After the castle, we drove to Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, which is 66 feet across and 98 feet above the water. The rope bridge connects the mainland to a little island. It was a bit freaky being on the little rope bridge that high, but most of us made it across without incident. Anela was scared of heights and stayed behind for a while, but eventually someone who worked there walked her across to join us.

Look, we all made it!

I think gem took this photo of me. It was really beautiful on the island.

Of course, I had to do a little yoga. I was still a few feet from the edge; don’t worry.

After our adventures with the rope bridge, we explored the Dunseverick Castle ruins and Dunluce Castle. Both were mostly ruins, and there isn’t a lot to say about them. Afterwards we went to Giant’s Causeway, shown above.

We did some hiking, and gem and Anela rescued a slug from the middle of the path.

This rock reminds me of a dinosaur’s bone. I wonder if anyone else in my group imagined that.

Giant’s Causeway is known for these basalt columns that are naturally formed from volcanic eruption. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anela, gem, and Antonio hike across the rocks.

Here’s a closer look at the columns. You can see that the number of sides differ.

Watch your step! All three of them are looking down as they walk so they don’t trip.

That face. I don’t know what she was thinking here. 🙂

On the way back to our apartment, we stopped in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for pizza at Opera Italian Pizza. Anela has no recollection of this, so I’m glad I have photos! You’ll have to excuse the weird neon lighting.

We got two pizzas, but this is the one that I remember. It might look like Hawaiian, but that’s not pineapple. It’s a ham and peaches pizza, and it was super delicious! This is one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

The next day we took a day trip to County Clare in the Mid-West Region. We grabbed McDonald’s for the road before heading out. Driving on the wrong side was fun!

We started with Bunratty Castle! And I hope all these photos are accurate. I might have some mixed up with Craggaunowen. That’s the problem with using my phone as well as my DSLR since my phone’s clock updated but my DSLR’s clock was set to my home timezone. It’s hard to sort out which photos go together.

I read that most castle staircases are narrow and go up clockwise so that defenders coming down the towers would have more space to swing their swords (since most people were using swords in their right hands). Interesting!

Time for a short break from all the walking to sit and look out a window. I think there’s a pretty decent chance than I asked them to sit down and pose for this actually.

The blacksmith fit Anela her new shoe. He was a nice guy, and I bet he really enjoys what he does here.

gem and Anela help the blacksmith! Honestly, we spent a long time with him. He really wanted to show us a lot of things, but it was fun.

gem also met some new feathered friends!

Next was Craggaunowen, a 16-century castle and open-air museum. Here’s gem on the roof of the castle.

gem learned to spin yarn first. It looks like she took this seriously.

I wanted to try as well. I bet I was focusing and concentrating.

And here’s Anela. Is that the face of someone trying their hardest? I think not! I bet she was laughing at herself, but I don’t remember.

This was in the castle courtyard. It was very pretty and green!

This path led to the rest of the open-air museum.

This is some sort of combination of building and underground tunnel.

The site features reconstructions of what life used to be like in Ireland.

Edited to add Anela’s comment: “Also, that looks like we ’bout to drop the hottest album of the year!”

Here’s an actor playing the role of someone who might have lived here in the past. He was nice!

After finishing at Craggaunowen, we explored Aillwee Cave, a cave system that includes an underground river. I don’t have a lot of photos to share since it was dark, but it was fun to go on the tour.

The Cliffs of Moher are quite possibly my favorite place. I don’t mean my favorite stop on our trip. I actually mean my favorite place ever. It was amazing.

Just look how gorgeous these cliffs were.

I spent a bit of time sitting alone. I wish I was close enough to sit and think at the cliffs regularly.

There were even some pretty pink flowers growing along the edge of the cliff.

I believe the little island is the Branaunmore Sea Stack. Atop the cliffs is O’Brien’s Tower.

gem went to explore the tower more closely!

At this point it was getting late and we were getting hungry. In our rush to see as many places as possible, we hadn’t planned enough time to eat. It didn’t help that the sun set much later than we expected and that restaurants seem to close earlier. In our search for a restaurant, we did find some nice cows that checked us out while we checked them out.

Eventually we found a bar with a bartender nice enough to reopen the kitchen to get us some amazing stew. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. However, there was one small part of the day left. I had an approximately 170 mile drive back to Dublin – late at night, single lane and unlit highways, wrong side of the road. I was so tired. That was possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thanks for trusting me to get us back safely guys!

We got back to Dublin much later than we had planned, so we decided to sleep later and spend the day in Dublin rather than driving to County Cork.

We began our day with a meal at O’Neil’s. I had some delicious shepherd’s pie! Afterwards we did some exploring. Here we are at Dublin Castle.

Next up was the Christ Church Cathedral.

We also got to go down into the crypts, which was a museum, but I didn’t take any photos worth sharing here.

Anela and gem pose in front of Peacock Green after we stopped for a treat. They gave us free pastries!

We went on a walking tour of Dublin where we were told that it was good luck to grab the left breast of the statue of Molly Malone. I bet no local believes that and that it’s just something they tell tourists.

Three lovely ladies post for a selfie. Molly Malone wouldn’t duck face.

The tour also took us to Trinity College, but I didn’t take any photos worth showing.

gem touches the tip of the Spire.

We spent the rest of the day walking through the city. We saw some interesting sights and learned some fascinating things. I was intrigued by the story of Father Pat Noise. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The tour guide told us that Irish care more about the story than the truth. Two brothers installed a plaque on O’Connell Bridge commemorating Father Pat Noise – someone who didn’t really exist. It was eventually removed (after two or three years). Another was installed, and when it was planned to be removed, a City Councillor argued against it. It’s still there.

Anela and Antonio look at something in difference while gem looks directly into the camera wondering why I’m taking a photo.

On our final morning, gem made us some breakfast sandwiches before we headed back to the airport for the next leg of our vacation!

Ireland was so amazing and beautiful. I know there are so many places to visit and so much traveling I’d love to do, but I really hope I can return to Ireland and spend a lot more time there. And while I’m hoping, I hope that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains relatively invisible after the UK exits the European Union! Thanks for the memories, Ireland!

European Vacation – England

I visited England about 10 months ago, so it’s about time I talk about it. We flew from Copenhagen to London where security was almost as annoying as it is in the US. The rest of Europe was relatively relaxed, but getting into the UK takes some time. After landing, we took a train where we changed in the train bathroom to prepare for our first stop…

Tea time! We had tea at the Hilton West End. Unfortunately, we had to bring our luggage with us since we were cutting it close, but everything worked out fine.

I had Earl Grey tea and tomato, cucumber, salmon, and ham sandwiches. They were all delicious, and it was a lot of fun.

We took a bus to get to our AirBNB and then explored the city a bit. It was kind of fun to see places with names we recognized from the computer game, Hellgate: London such as Piccadilly Circus and Charring Cross. It was also fun to use the real London Undergrounds. I know it’s not special to those who live there, but I was a tourist and I enjoyed it!

After a quick detour to get photos of each of us in a red telephone box (because how could we not), we stopped at McDonald’s to continue trying McDonald’s in each country.

None of my photos of Big Ben turned out great since it was dark, but it was pretty cool seeing it lit up in the London sky. It’s so iconic. We also walked along the River Thames near the London Eye!

The next day we struggled to figure out the washing machine and then left on our tour of Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. Cotswolds wasn’t a destination; rather, it’s a lush area of hills and grass through which we drove on our bus tour to the other destinations. First was Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare.  We went on a tour of his first home where the tour impressed upon us just how simple of a life it was during that time. They gave us a snack, and we watched some actors perform a short scene.

Next we visited Bath where the Roman Baths were built. The water wasn’t so pretty now, but at one time, people visited to bathe in the waters. The architecture was cool, but more interesting was some of the classic art – statues, tools, coins, scrolls, and more. The writings were mostly simple lists – debts and, if I recall correctly, a list of suspects from a crime.

Outside the baths was a street performer who set birds all over us. As gem and I had recently played Hatoful Boyfriend, a computer game in which you play as a young woman in a world now run by birds (it’s from Japan, okay?), we were quite excited.

Stonehenge was the last stop on our tour, and likely with good reason. This was the main attraction. It was really awesome seeing such a well-known icon up close. At the same time, and I think this applies to a lot of things, it’s less idyllic in person with huge groups of people wandering around. Of course, you can’t actually get close either.

There was an audio tour you could use while walking along as well. I used it and listened to a large portion of it, but honestly, nothing I learned really stuck with me. If you visit, I think you could safely skip it.

I do, however, remember the audio tour causing me to focus on the rock. What did it say about it? I have absolutely no idea. But I like the photo.

I also really like this photo of Antonio gazing at Stonehenge. What do you think he’s thinking about?

When we got back to London, we needed to go shopping. Anela had torn her jeans and needed a replacement. Irish John and Steve, our tour guides, were really nice. They offered to drop us off last near a store. After making her purchase, we went in search of dinner. We ended at Simply Indian, a delicious Indian restaurant in London. It was super delicious – one of the better meals we had on vacation. I have to be honest though; we had a lot of great food!

Our goal the next day was to see some British guards! Look, gem holds one of the tiny guards on her palm.

I’m getting ahead of myself. First on the agenda was a place Antonio suggested – Borough Market. There was cheese, olive oils, vinegar, honey, sausages, and even brownie samples. I ate a venison burger, more Indian food, a meat pie, and had some tea. After eating, we split up because one of us forgot our phone. I don’t even remember who it was or who went with who at this point. However, I knew how to use the underground to get back and then get where we were going to meet.

We were meeting at the Lush flagship store, across the street from a Uniqlo, about two blocks from where we’d get off the underground. Awesome. Easy enough, right? Not quite. I thought I followed the directions, but it didn’t seem right. As it turns out, a couple blocks in either direction was Lush, each across the street from a Uniqlo. What the heck?! We eventually found the correct Lush, and I had a great chat with a woman working there who’s actually half Greek.

Now it was off to Buckingham Palace and Whitehall for the changing of the guards. Anela really wanted to be able to go up to a guard who can’t respond like in films, but that’s not possible anymore. She did get a photo with this officer though! Who doesn’t like a man in uniform?

I believe this is the four us at Whitehall for the changing of the guards. It was fun!

With our mission complete, we did a little exploring and wandered the streets.

We decided we definitely had to have some fish and chips while in London, so we stopped here at The Clarence for a bite to eat and a beer.

While we were in London, we decided to try to sneak to Hogwarts. We found Platform 9 3/4 and pushed our way through! There was a bit of  line, but I enjoyed chatting and watching others have fun when it was their turn. If the participants are willing, they have each person pose once as if walking through and another jumping. They also have participants focus on the professional cameraman as well as their own. On top of that, they let us take group photos and individuals photos. It was pretty cool!

gem did a little shopping for a wand. So many choices! We didn’t actually purchase a wand, but it was fun to shop. We also met a cosplayer who goes by La Espada de Obi Wan in line. He specializes in Obi-wan and The Doctor. You can find him on Facebook as La Espada de Obi Wan!

After looking at all the goodies in the Harry Potter store, we went in search of the door used as Sherlock’s door in the show. It’s not a show I watch, but I was happy to go too. gem was certainly excited!

Our final major goal was to visit Abbey Road. There was a designated wall on which people could write or draw, which was pretty interesting. There were a decent number of tourists, but it wasn’t packed. I do feel bad for the poor drivers who just want to drive down their street!

This is the best photo I have of us. Yeah, yeah, I know we’re walking the wrong way when compared to the Beatles. We also met a tourist there who loved the Beach Boys. He must have spent at least five minutes talking about how much better the Beach Boys were than the Beatles. He wasn’t mean about it or anything, but he was certainly opinionated. His wife seemed less than amused.

We finished at Abbey Road, and moved on to exploring Soho. We ate our second fish and chips meal of the day and then grabbed some coffee at the Soho Grind, a very pleasant location.

After a good night’s rest, we quickly visited Borough Market again in the morning before heading to the airport. I had a salad, and then we prepared for our flight. Unfortunately, by luggage was overweight, so I had to check it. It wasn’t a problem though, and then we were off to Dublin!

Thanks for the memories, London!

Looking back on 2016, and looking forward to 2017

I keep hearing about how awful 2016 was and how 2017 should hopefully be better. There were a lot of celebrity deaths in 2016, and I was devastated by the presidential election. More personally, I was laid off from Toshiba in a huge reduction-in-force, and my roommate had to put our two dogs to sleep. Yeah, there were negatives. And yet I’ll be lucky if 2017 lives up to 2016.

I traveled to Europe and saw eight countries with three of my closest friends, gem, Antonio, and Anela, and visited two great friends, Jessica and Andrew, who had recently moved to Paris. I saw Denmark, the UK (including England and Northern Ireland), the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Sweden. It was amazing, and I swear I’ll get to sorting photos and blogging eventually.

I saw Disneyland Paris and our hometown Disneyland’s Season of the Force. I attended Devin and Lorena’s 30th wedding anniversary party that included a face-painted bar crawl and a 1920s speakeasy party. I saw Kristine’s first exhibit that she curated in LA – Firsts, Seconds and Thirds: African American Leaders in Los Angeles During the 1960s & 70s.

I watched Anela dance a few times, including Shimmy Shakedown featuring her and Melissa. I saw the Wet Silk art exhibit, met Jon Klassen at the LA Times Festival of Books, and watched an LA KISS Arena football game.

The Holi Festival was a colorful blast of fun. Here I am with gem, Tory, Sean, and Nicole. I also went to the Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival!

I went to a number of photoshoots with Anela, including this Fourth of July shoot that I really enjoyed, a fairy photoshoot, cherry blossoms, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall and train tracks in LA where I also got to shoot gem!

I took a bunch of friends to the Alpaca Hacienda for Anela’s birthday, and we got to see feed and pet alpacas and a llama!

I watched Sherlock Holmes and the Time Portal as well as Sweeney Todd, and gem surprised me with tickets to see Patton Oswalt. I’d been wanting to see his stand-up for a long time, and he didn’t disappoint. I had the three most amazing meals of my life – two at Frame in Paris and one for Edward’s birthday at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Pasadena.

I participated in a high-altitude sleep and cognitive ability sleep study at Barcroft Station, White Mountain Research Center where I witnessed some of the most beautiful views of nature I’ve ever seen. I saw the B-52s and Flight of the Conchords live as well as a number of local ska bands that I see regularly. I went to Allison’s awesome gaybut party and finally made it to one of Bryan’s parties where I participated in some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve had in a while.

I cosplayed Luke while gem cosplayed Professor Layton at San Diego Comic-Con. I also cosplayed Fix-It Felix Jr., and a Pokemon Go trainer. I got to dress as a zombie later in the year as well! I attended the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary party and saw some improv such as Spectacles, ImprovCity, and more.

Two great friends, Gracie and Jon, got married, and I got to watch.

I worked for three months doing server and other hardware installation for California DMVs. While I was traveling across the state, I got to visit my friends Matt, Katie, and Marc. I also had the chance to have lunch with Chuck Sommerville, a game designer whom I’ve admired for a very long time. He’s incredibly fascinating and has done many interesting things, and he was every bit as nice as I could have hoped.

And I even got to meet Alex and Darnell’s beautiful new daughter, Meredith.

Now I’m sure I’m missing many awesome things about 2016, but that just proves my point. If 2017 is half as good to me as 2016 was, I’ll be very grateful. Happy New Year.

DMV server installation job and Nor Cal trip

I recently finished a temporary, contract job as a field technician for Form 10 installing computer hardware in California DMVs. Each day, two technicians would arrive at a DMV at 2:30 PM. We’d install new a new uninterruptible power supply and rack server, remove the old UPS and server, remove the old camera workstation, install and configure a new one, install new fingerprint readers at every window, and remove the old fingerprint readers. We’d leave whenever we were finished (usually between 7 and 10 PM), and then one of us would come the next morning to watch from 7:30 AM until 10:00 AM. And then we’d drive to the next DMV. As the team lead, I also had a bit of paperwork.

It was nice experience installation the rack servers. The hardest part was the physical act of getting it racked. It was also interesting seeing the DMV from the other side. DMVs have a reputation for being slow and boring, but in reality they’re staffed by normal people who are for the most part trying to help customers. And some of those customers are pretty bad.

The real difficulty of the job was the hours. Every other day I didn’t work until 2:30, which sounds good. However, when you consider that I’m in a different hotel each night, waking up, eating breakfast, working out, checking out by 11, and then driving to the next DMV by 2:30, there wasn’t much time for anything. There were tiny pockets of time. Maybe I could work out quickly enough, check out early, drive to the next DMV as soon as possible, and get there by 12:30 or 1. That gave me maybe two hours, but those free hours were in an unfamiliar place without any physical space for me to use. It was tough, especially being in Northern California or the Central Valley for a few weeks without being home.

Surprisingly I ran into three emergencies. First, one of the security staff members at one of the DMVs was taken away on a gurney. I don’t know what happened to her, but she was able to walk to the gurney herself. At another DMV, I heard a bit of a commotion between the staff and found out that an ambulance came for a woman who fell in the parking lot. It was raining hard that day, and I heard she fell unconscious. I don’t know if she slipped in the rain, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious or if she suddenly lost consciousness, causing her to fall. What I do know is that I saw security coning off a part of the walkway the had a puddle of blood. Apparently she broke her nose. Lastly, my partner and I witnessed a woman pulling away from a man, yelling things like, “get away from me” and “don’t touch me!” I got security, and my partner brought her inside while the man followed. It seemed to be a domestic dispute. Maybe she was overreacting and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe he was doing something wrong. I don’t know. But I do know that at the end of the day, she was okay, and that’s what matters. The police came and talked to both me and my partner, and they reviewed the security footage right next to me as I installed the server. It was an interesting day.

There was some chance for fun as well. I had some down time one day and decided to visit the local university, Stanislaus State.

I had never even heard of it, but I enjoy universities, and this one was certainly beautiful.

I also saw some cool wildlife. Yes, this photo is terrible. But there are wild turkey in the center!

And here’s a terrible photograph a baby deer! It’s right under the bush in the center at the top.

While in Sacramento, I had the chance to visit the Capitol Building.

I had to take a photograph with the bear! Former-governor Schwarzenegger bought this and left it in the Capitol Building.

I met an interesting woman with whom I went out twice while in Sacramento too. She teaches fifth graders, including many who have hearing impairments. She uses ASL in the classroom. I found it particularly interesting to realize she has to watch for children signing during tests as a way of cheating. She also plays roller derby in Sacramento, which is pretty sweet!

Chuck Sommerville, creator of Chip’s Challenge, lives near Sacramento. I asked him if he’d like to join a fan for lunch, and he agreed. It was awesome. Chip’s Challenge is one of my favorite games; I have an autographed copy of the original Lynx version. The lunch was a pretty amazing experience. He’s a bit of a personal hero of mine and has done a lot of cool things. He always has fascinating projects and shares progress on Facebook. Over lunch he told me a lot about the development of Chip’s Challenge, Chip’s Challenge 2, and Chuck’s Challenge 3D. I also heard about some more of my Lynx favorites like Klax, Todd’s Adventures in Slime World, Gates of Zendocon, and California Games (Chuck designed the skateboarding game). He also told me about John Romero (designer of Doom) and how they were both huge fans of each other’s work.

Chuck now works with LEDs. One installation of which he was particularly proud was the “Sensing YOU” installation in San Jose, which I had a chance to check out. It interacts with the phone game, Ingress, and responds to the motion of pedestrians passing under it. He actually got me playing Ingress now too. It’s a location-based game made by Niantic, the same developer who later made Pokemon Go. Ingress and Pokemon Go use the same underlying data.

Here’s a video of the installation that I took! I was with Matt and Katie, who I stayed with one weekend. They were very gracious to let me stay in their home and are truly terrific people. I had a wonderful time with them!

I’d never put up Christmas lights and enjoyed the opportunity to help them.

They looked great!

Matt has an arcade cabinet at home that his brother gave him as a gift. Here’s Matt and Katie playing Bomberman together. This photo makes me really happy honestly! They’re wonderful together, and I might have a soft spot for arcade cabinets too.

Visiting them was really fun. I got to see my friend Marc a couple nights that weekend as well. It’s practically unbelievable to me that I originally met these great friends through World of Warcraft!

That’s my trip! I got to add rack server installations to my resume, see all sorts of the more rural parts of California in which I had never stopped, visit Sacramento, and even meet Chuck Sommerville. It was a pretty good gig!

White Mountain Peak

white mountain peak

When Erica asked me to be a subject in a sleep study at White Mountain Peak, it sounded like a fun adventure! I spent four days at 12,500 feet, met some awesome people, and saw breathtaking views of nature.

white mountain peak

I stayed for three nights, and each night I was using a different routine. The first night I slept with AVS. From what I can tell with some Googling, it uses the ambient air, pressurizes it, and basically forces you to breathe it. I’m simplifying. I slept with a mask over my nose, and I actually liked it quite a bit. The second night I slept normally, and the third night I slept with oxygen.

The treatments are nice because the air is a lot thinner up there, and there’s a lot less oxygen. Simple tasks could really wear me out. Soaping my body with my bar of soap caused my heart to race. Talking while hiking would leave me needing to catch my breath. I also felt the effects of altitude sickness pretty badly at times.

white mountain peak

Despite the difficulties from high altitude, I did some great hiking. We even saw deer! They’re in this photograph, but I know they’re too small to see clearly. We also a hawk of some sort with a red tail. I’d like to say it was a red-tailed hawk, but for all I know, there could be a lot of hawks that happen to have red tails.

white mountain peak

Everybody on the trip was awesome as well. Steve, the caretaker at Barcroft station, was a puppeteer and is a delicious cook! I had the opportunity to get closer to Erica and Alex, and I’m thankful for that. Dillon rescued me from altitude sickness one day by joining Alex and me in a great conversation on morality and ethics. Matea, despite saying she doesn’t open up easily, left me breathless as we chatted during our hike. Corey gave me some photography tips – especially regarding shooting the stars. They must not have stuck with me, because you’ll notice I’m not sharing any starscapes.

Now I know 12,500 feet is pretty darn high, but I’d definitely go again. It was gorgeous! Check out more of my photos from the trip in this Flickr album!

San Diego Comic-Con 2016

Luke Triton

SDCC 2016 was a blast! I cosplayed as Luke Triton from Professor Layton for the first time while gem cosplayed Professor Layton herself. I also did a quick cosplay of a Team Valor Pokemon trainer as well as my Fix-It Felix, Jr. cosplay from last year. I saw a number of panels, met a lot of cool cosplayers, got some free books, partied, and did a whole lot more. I was also very exhausted 🙂

Luke Triton

I was really happy with my Luke cosplay. gem and I stopped by the Capcom booth and took a photo with this picture of Phoenix Wright. There was a crossover Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright game, so we thought it was appropriate. I was hoping to run into a Phoenix Wright cosplayer, but it never happened.

Layton and Luke

Here’s a promotional picture of Layton and Luke if you’re unfamiliar with them.

We stopped by the Behemoth booth like we do every year. One guy running the booth, Larry, recognized us from last year when gem asked if Hatty was going to be in attendance! He remembered that gem wrote a note and gave it to him to give to Hatty in 2015. He was awesome!

We went to a number of interesting panels starting with “Retellings and Remixes” with Marissa Meyer, Renee Ahdieh, Colleen Houck, Anna Todd, Jodi Meadows, and Colleen Oakes. gem’s a big fan of Marissa Meyer. Although I hadn’t read her works, they sounded interesting, and she was a great speaker. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work in the future. The panel focused on retelling fairy tales and classic novels in a reimagined way.

“Nedist TV: The Boundary-Pushers” featured Bryan Fuller, Michael Green, Steven Moffat, and Alicia Lutes discussing the new acceptance of genre TV with a focus on American Gods and Sherlock. They also went into tangents about accepting all kinds of peoples it definitely went anti-Trump at times.

“A World After Harry: The Changing Genre of YA Fantasy” featured Sarah J. Maas, Jessica Cluess, Gena Showalter, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Soman Chainani, and Tobie Easton discussing how young adult fiction has changed after Harry Potter. It was interesting to hear how authors set themselves apart from J.K. Rowling.

In “Creating Immersive Game Story,” Chris Avellone, Leah Hoyer, and Elbert Perez discussed game narrative, going into how to really engage players well.

J. Jonah Jameson

My favorite panel was “Cosplay as Storytelling” in which Adam Savage, Jay Justice, and Deborah Nadolman Landis discussed cosplay and how it’s a form of storytelling. Adam went into how cosplaying isn’t just wearing a costume, but it’s a type of performance. I definitely know what he means. Look at this awesome J. Jonah Jameson I met. He’s not just in a costume. He’s performing; he’s telling a story. And he’s great!

The last panel I attended was the “Spotlight on Marissa Meyer,” which was interesting. Unfortunately we were a bit late due to an autograph session, but it was still fun.

tokidoki autographed photo

Did you hear about the new tokidoki x Peter Anargirou collaboration? I printed one of my photos and took it to Simone Legno’s autograph session. It’s fascinating how great artists and creative people of all types and collaborate, and I love collaborating with people in small ways. Having him draw on one of my photos was a cool way to collaborate with him, and since gem’s in the photo, she got to be in on it as well! Now it looks like gem is photographing the cute Kaiju!

I also got a copy of Heartless autographed by Marissa Meyer as well as Red Rising autographed by Pierce Brown. I came out of the con with a few other few other free books as well – An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove. I wasn’t a fan of the last book by Turtledove, but I’ll give this one a try.

Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Party

The three of us attended the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Party at the House of Blues, meeting two new friends and running into an old friend, Pat, as well. It was a ton of fun – a lot more than I expected. It was sponsored by Totino’s, so we got to eat some greasy snacks, but we also took shots and I had a few White Russians. I took a photo with a cool Sonic the Hedgehog cosplayer, we got some swag, and I talked a lot. There were games to be played there too, but I didn’t touch them honestly. At the end of the night, the staff recorded the audience yelling “Sega” to be used as the intro for the next Sonic game. After the party we went back to the hotel for more drinks. There was live music at the bar, and I did a little Balboa swing dancing. It turns out that I’m a decent dancer (to a drunk crowd of SDCC attendees).

Pushkin

gem and I met our friend Mike for dinner at Pushkin Russian Restaurant. It was so delicious! I hadn’t seen Mike since New Year’s Eve, so it was good to see him. Afterward we checked out the Nerd HQ party, but it wasn’t that good honestly.

Pokemon Go

There was a Pokemon Go panel in Hall H, the largest hall at the convention. Previously, you’d need to line up over night to get into Hall H. This year, you could line up for wristbands, given out at 9:00 PM. We checked out the line around 8:30 PM, and it was huge. Absolutely huge. And then we found out from the guy working there and watching the line that the night before the line was that long, but he didn’t know if they got wristbands. He got off work at 1:00 AM, and the wristbands hadn’t reached that far back. Yeah, we decided to skip Hall H. However, there were rumors that Niantic would release something for Pokemon Go in the panel, so a ton of Pokemon Go fans congregated around Hall H or above it. Convention staff started yelling at people to leave. I’d like to add that they never once tried talking like normal, civil people, and they also made up lies to get us to leave. Not cool. What was cool was when people realized that if they line up for the Mrs. Field’s Cookies stand, they were no longer just loitering. Yep, that line pictures above was for cookies – totally not Pokemon Go. And by the way, nothing was released in the panel.

Pokestop

Pokemon Go was extremely popular. Here Professor Layton checks for Pokemon since there’re lures on the Pokestops near her.

Nintendo Lounge

This guy working in the Nintendo Lounge loved gem’s Ariel and asked for a photo with her. Look happy they look! This guy was awesome.

Nintendo Lounge pokeball

Here I’m in my quick Team Valor Pokemon trainer cosplay with a giant pokeball.

Nintendo Lounge pikachu

When meeting pikachu, you need to give him a big hug so that he knows you’re his friend.

Nintendo Lounge pikachu

Once he’s been lulled into a false sense of security, you bust out a pokeball and catch him!

Star Trek

Star Trek was also very popular this year as it’s the 50th anniversary. MAC had a building designed to look like the saucer portion of the Enterprise while they showed off their Star Trek makeup. I didn’t care about the makeup, but we took the opportunity to stand on transporters as Layton and Luke! Plus, Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura on Star Trek, was there.

Joker and Harley Quinn

I asked these two cosplayers if I could take their photo because I thought they had great costumes. The Harley Quinn cosplayer noted that most people don’t even ask and said they’d be happy to pose.

Joker, Harley, Layton, and Luke

Professor Layton and the Curious Clowns

Actually, the Joker cosplayer recognized gem’s cosplay and asked us for a photo! How cool 🙂

Fix it Felix Jr. and Boo

Here’s a shot of me in my Fix-It Felix, Jr. cosplay along with a Boo cosplay from Monster’s, Inc. How cute is that cosplay?

Akuma

This Akuma cosplay is great too. The cosplayer was nice enough to find a good spot to take the photos. gem noted that you could sense his personality and mannerisms change as he got into character just like Adam Savage said cosplay often does.

Xena and Gabrielle

Last but certainly not least, this is Bernadette Bentley and Cathy Kutz as Xena and Gabrielle respectively. It was awesome to run into them and take their photo because I was already a fan. They were really nice!

Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July! I went up to Vasquez Rocks recently for this photoshoot with Anela of her quite American dress.

CRW_9854

I thought I’d share some of my favorites here.

Fourth of July

The park seemed a nice place for hiking in the future, but we didn’t do much during the shoot. They apparently film a lot of TV and film here too – Star Trek, Bill & Ted’s, and the Flintstones to name a few.

For more of my photos from the shoot, you can check my Flickr.

Fourth of July

Here’s a shot Raymond (Instagram: @raymond_g583) took of us with the little fireworks!

Fourth of July

I like this one that Mike (Instagram: @dirty_caliboy_mike) took of me shooting.

Fourth of July

There was also some sweet food eating as is an obvious Fourth of July tradition. We were quite lucky that gem had so many hats! Thanks for the selfie, Antonio.

Fourth of July

Michelle was bringing a friend we didn’t know, and that friend ended up being Josh. It was a pretty funny surprise. Small world!

Fourth of July

gem wore this cute Fourth of July outfit complete with blue wig! Coincidentally, her brother wore pretty much the same outfit (besides the wig). Her family has awesome fashion sense!

Fourth of July

We also ate oh-so-much food – barbecue, meats, veggies, fruit, pizza, cheesecake, cake, ice cream, and more! This red, white, and blue ice cream was gem’s masterpiece. It was blueberry ice cream with swirls of strawberry jelly and marshmallow. It was all delicious!

What a fantastic celebration of America!

LA Times Festival of Books and Jon Klassen

LA Times Festival of Books

When Collin told me that he noticed Jon Klassen, an author and illustrator I really like, was going to be at the LA Times Festival of Books, I immediately told gem and made plans to attend. Among other works, Klassen authored and illustrated I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat.

LA Times Festival of Books, Jon Klassen

This weekend we headed up to USC to meet him. Klassen was really friendly, and we both enjoyed chatting with him. We showed him some Snapchat art gem made involving his characters and told him about the “I Want My Yoga Shirt Back” flyer gem put up at her yoga studio when she lost her shirt. He complimented her Snapchat art!

LA Times Festival of Books, I Want My Hat Back

Check out my sweet first edition copy now! Awesome. 🙂

LA Times Festival of Books, This Is Not My Hat

We even discussed how he hears his characters’ voices. Klassen said hears them all deadpan and imagines that if there were actors portraying his characters, they’d be the worst actors he could find. I love it! While they do all have different voices when I read the book, they’re all pretty deadpan too actually. I told him how I do voices and even made a puppet show. He asked me to send him a link to the performance!

It was a lot of fun. Besides meeting Jon Klassen, we also got to eat some Filipino food from a food truck and some Thai sweet sticky rice with mango. We played on some outdoor workout equipment and took plenty of photos and various little photo ops. There was even an archaeologist there answering kids’ questions. He had a dinosaur puppet with him that was half controlled by someone in a suit and half controlled by someone outside. The kids wanted to pet it – adorable! On our way out, we even ran into our friend, Katy!

Here’s my performance of I Want My Hat Back. It’s so embarrassing! I love this book so much, and it was a great pleasure getting to meet Jon Klassen!

Cherry blossom festival

cherry blossom festival

The Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival was this month, so gem and I went to check it out. Ironically, most of the cherry blossoms had come and gone by the time of the festival.

cherry blossom festival

Luckily there were some, so we still got to enjoy the cherry blossoms.

cherry blossom festival

The other flowers were still blooming, which was nice. We stopped to take a few photos with them.

cherry blossom festival

One more in the flower garden for good measure. It was pretty in there!

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We finished off the day by making some origami cherry blossoms! They perfectly complemented the sparse cherry blossoms on the trees!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall is a beautiful building in Downtown LA. I’ve never had the chance to go inside, but I have taken photos in front of it. Here’s gem with her ukulele!

Los Angeles

This was actually taken while we were lost. I don’t remember what park it was, but it was really pretty.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

She looks like she’s enjoying that ukulele of hers.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

I think it was cold by this point, but don’t they look lovely anyways?

Walt Disney Concert Hall

After this, we were done with the front of the building.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

This is a rose fountain in a little garden above and behind the concert hall proper. It’s very beautiful!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

gem took a photo of me at the Concert Hall too. Thank you, gem!

We took some photos on the train tracks that same day. You’ll see them soon.

Shimmy Shakedown

Shimmy Shakedown

Shimmy Shakedown 2016 was on Sunday, and I was really looking forward to it. I hadn’t yet seen Anela with her new troupe, and Melissa’s part of the same troupe, giving me another reason to be excited.

Shimmy Shakedown

gem and I drove up early so we could have lunch. We ate at King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant. So much food. Oops. Too bad watching people shimmy doesn’t actually burn as many calories as actually dancing.

Shimmy Shakedown

Here’s Anela and me after the show. The show itself was fantastic. Dancers included Richy, Emily Iman, Jasmina, Delyla, Aubre Hill, Akasha Starr, Jizzelle, Fahtiem, Jillina, Amirat Al Sharq, Tonya’s Treasures, Meera, Tina Enheduanna, Rania, Stefanya, Ana Edith, and Atlantis. Fadi El Saadi, Ozzy, and Diana Rash also provided live music and singing.

Shimmy Shakedown

Here’s gem and Anela!

I wish the lighting was better in the lobby for photos though!

Everybody was really talented. I especially enjoyed Jillina second set, Meera, and Jizzelle’s last set. Some of the costumes were truly amazing too.

Shimmy Shakedown

My favorites, however, were these two. I suppose it’s no surprise; I’d always prefer to watch people I know and care about do something they love.

I recorded their performance too. It actually starts out shaky before the dancers come on stage, but luckily my hands get steadier. I especially enjoyed the transition between pieces. It’s making me laugh as I rewatch it now!

All the performers came out for the finale, so I had to record that too!

It was a fantastic evening, and I can’t wait for the next time I can watch my friends dance.

Murphy Ranch hike

Murphy Ranch

Murphy Ranch is a compound built by Nazi-sympathizers in Los Angeles. Local police seized the compound, and it’s currently owned by the city of Los Angeles. After hearing that it was going to be demolished (I’ve since learned that only parts of it were removed), Anela and I decided to pay it a visit. Thanks for taking our photo, kind stranger.

Murphy Ranch hike

It was definitely a bit of a hike with a lot of stairs, but it was also very enjoyable. There were a number of people out to see it, and it was fun to run into the same people throughout the day.

Murphy Ranch

The building was completely covered in graffiti and very pretty.

Anela at Murphy Ranch

Kitty Pryde enters the building through the wall. Either that, or I embrace mistakes.

Graffiti at Murphy Ranch

Here’s the wall without any X-men. There were a few people spray painting while we were there. I got a few photos as well, but I’d rather not post them.

Anela at Murphy Ranch

This was Anela’ favorite piece of art, which I find beautiful as well. She reminds me of tokidoki art.

Murphy Ranch

This was the back wall on the outside. I like the minion.

Murphy Ranch

This was, I think, a water tower behind the building. Not quite as neat as the building itself. Photo credit to Anela!

Murphy Ranch

Here’s a look at the back side of the building as we returned from the water tower.

Anela at Murphy Ranch

There was a ladder that went up to some catwalks that I used to take more photos. You could use it to access the roof as well, although I didn’t climb out there. I like this shot looking down at Anela. Yes, I removed a word from the wall.

Anela at Murphy Ranch

Why were there metal bars on the windows? I don’t really know.

Murphy Ranch

We saw this guy on the way to a second building. While I liked this, the building itself wasn’t anywhere near as cool as the first so I won’t bother posting any photos of it here.

More photos are in my Flickr album, but it doesn’t include any photos I didn’t take myself.

It was a really fun day. I should check it out again to see what’s changed!

Purple dress snow photoshoot

Purple dress snow photoshoot

Back in January, I visited the snow for a fun and chilly afternoon. Anela wanted to do a photoshoot in a new, purple dress she made. She invited gem to take photos, and I took a few as well. I don’t want to post many or show off the dress much. I’ll let Anela make any edits and decide when to release them, but she said I could post these. This was my favorite shot.

Purple dress snow photoshoot

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of the photographer at work! gem’s so tokidoki’d in this photo. I love it.

IMG_5672

Anela took this of gem and me. Is it too nerdy to admit that gem reminds me of a jedi?

Purple dress snow photoshoot

Awkward selfie time. There were some better ones, but I thought this one was funny. There were also some far, far worse ones that I thought the girls wouldn’t appreciate being posted.

Purple dress snow photoshoot

gem took this photo of Anela and me. Thanks, gem!

Purple dress snow photoshoot

We’ll end the post with this derpy little snowman we found. This was only my second time seeing snow – both thanks to photoshoots of Anela. It was a fun day!

Firsts, Seconds and Thirds: African American Leaders in Los Angeles During the 1960s & 1970s

IMG_5563Last week was the opening reception of Firsts, Seconds and Thirds: African American Leaders in Los Angeles During the 1960s & 1970s. kristine
My friend Kristine has been working at the Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch Photo Collection Department as an archivist for the Rolland J. Curtis Photo Archive. Curtis was the Field Deputy to Billy G. Mills and Tom Bradley, who were two of the first three African-American councilman on the LA city council in the ’60s. Kristine sorted through thousands of photographs and was the curator. How cool is that? You can read more about her project on her blog, Film Is Memory. IMG_5555

Look, her name’s on the poster!

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gem and Kristine!

kristine

I had to show her fiancé, Justin, some love too. IMG_5588Here’s gem and Justin as well. IMG_5559gem wanted to get a photo at the podium. She’s a thinker, that one.

kristine

I didn’t realize the mic was hot, and when I chuckled, it amplified it. I don’t think anyone noticed luckily.

kristine

gem also took this of me through some furniture. IMG_5604

After the opening reception, during which I managed to stuff my face full of cookies and miniature cinnamon buns, we had some dinner at Chego, a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant in LA. I got a tasty kimchi spam bowl. Rather than show you that, I’m going to show a low-quality photo of the “Ooey Gooey Fries” – very unhealthy, I’m sure.

kristine

After dinner, we took some photos with Pooh and got some ice cream. Funny how my lips were inches away from Justin’s face in the photo I posted above, but when taking a photo with this disgusting public Pooh Bear, I accidentally touched my lips to him. Ugh. Pooh looks a bit bashful, don’t you think?

Thanks to 2015 and everyone who made it great

Crow on the lake

This was quite the year filled with many fun activities. It seems like a nice time for some reflection. I went to Michigan, which was beautiful, with Duncan. I’d never been that far north or east.

Niagara Falls

On that same trip, I left the country for the first time to visit Niagara Falls.

Lee's Palace

I also visited Toronto! It was an awesome city.

Holland Tayloe Gedney as Elsa

I went to San Diego Comic-Con again. Here I’m dressed as an Aquabat with Holland Tayloe Gedney’s Elsa.

The Aquabats!

It was also my first year cosplaying – not counting the Aquabats costume I’ve worn to SDCC previously for concerts. This is Professor Monty Corndog from the Aquabats (with the Aquabats)!

Snapchat magic by gem

And let’s not forget Fix-It Felix, Jr.

Bay Area friends

I visited friends in the Bay Area when I went to San Francisco for a conference.

SoCal Paddle Yoga

I did a lot of yoga, including paddle yoga. I started practicing yoga in the summer of 2014 and continued in 2014. Starting in June, I did yoga daily, never missing a day. I took over 130 yoga classes in 2015. My wrist is still healing but is feeling much better. I think the glucosamine sulfate (thanks to the pianist from Intergalactic Nemesis for the suggestion) and vertical mouse is helping quite a bit. I also hurt my knee, so for the past few months I’ve only been doing restorative or yin yoga. Honestly, I can see the good in this. I’ve learned to appreciate yin and restorative so much more, which helps give me a deeper understanding to my practice and myself.

dancing

Speaking of hurting my knee, I’ve also been dancing a lot more. I took 40-something dance classes this year. While I tried a lot of different areas, I like Balboa, Argentine tango, and Lindy Hop the most. I’m glad I have fun friends who like to go dancing.

Ooey Gooey Berry PieI baked an ooey gooey berry pie for Anela to celebrate the fact that she passed the bar. I also got to attend her bar admission ceremony and law school graduation. Folly at Dapper Day

gem and I went to the Dapper Day expo at Downtown Disney and to Folly, the afterparty.

gem on stage with Suburban Legends!gem and I were extras during the filming of The Big Day, and gem got this great photo of her with Suburban Legends. Free Comic Book Day and ImprovCity's Comic Book Day show!

I saw so much talent in my friends. This is Free Comic Book Day show at ImprovCity with my friend Alex Bower front and center. Besides some regular shows, I saw him in Scary Pants (which he wrote), Millennial Falcon at Second City, and HIStory/HERstory.

UntitledSpeaking of talented friends named Alex, I saw Alex Foster clowning around and got pulled on stage for more participation (just like the last clown show I saw before this one). Little Jimmy the Robot of the Aquabats

I painted a little Jimmy the Robot.

Adventure Time mug painted at Color Me Mine! Idea by reddit user /u/Just-Another-Teenage in a post by /u/Corrupt_CoreI also painted this Adventure Time mug. Adventure Time mug painted at Color Me Mine! Idea by reddit user /u/Just-Another-Teenage in a post by /u/Corrupt_Core

You have to see both sides.

That’s not to mention the cool Christmas gifts and cards I made this year. I haven’t given them all to their recipients yet, so I don’t want to show anything.

IMG_3833gem took me to a sushi class where we prepared sushi rolls! She’s the best 🙂Coup de Comedy 2015

We also saw Kindred Throats, an amazing musical comedy duo. She liked them so much, she baked them cookies. Twice.

Anela's graduation

I attended Anela’s law school graduation from Chapman.

bar admission ceremony

…and her CA Bar admission ceremony.

Kurios

gem and I saw Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS! Amazing!

Me and Anela at the Bellydance IDOL presents Om Kalthoum Tribute Show

I saw Anela dance a number of times, including the really fun Bellydance IDOL presents Om Kalthoum Tribute Show.

watson adventures

I helped solve a mystery at the Watson Adventures.

Blacklight Run

I ran (jogged/walked) a Blacklight Run with these two fun people.

Snow photo shoot with gem and Anela

I even got to see snow for the first time.

Heck, the year even started with my friends getting engaged.

I did so many other cool things too such as…

  • Reading all surviving plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides that I hadn’t read previously.
  • Having agents draft social media responses for me at work
  • Participating in a behavioral study
  • Becoming friends with Bryan Lackey, awesome ska trumpet player
  • Wakeboarding
  • Watching my brother perform in the Spectacles Improv Engine’s Student Showcase
  • Seeing a meteor shower
  • Attending a sand sculpture festival
  • Jogging/walking a Blacklight Run
  • Running the Walking Dead Experience
  • Seeing bands such as the Aquabats, the Interrupters, Starpool, Suburban Legends, LA Swing Barons, Imagine Dragons, Metric, Halsey, the LA Philharmonic, and Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox
  • Vacationing with my roommates and friends in Vegas
  • Swing dancing in Downtown Disney
  • Visiting the OC Fair and OC Night Market
  • Watching Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Lots of blogging (see my earlier post)

And I’m sure I’m forgetting to mention a thousand things. Thanks to everybody who helped make 2015 such an amazing year.

Wakeboarding on 9/12/15

wakeboarding

In September, gem, Anela, and I went wakeboarding with my parents and brother. I was a bit slow posting photos from it, but I wanted to make sure to get these online.

Wakeboarding

The ukulele survived the trip unharmed!

Wakeboarding

Here’s my mom with Anela and gem.

Wakeboarding

Pete looks pretty happy with his boat here! This might be our last wakeboarding trip, because he wants to get rid of the boat. Maybe he won’t manage to sell it, and we’ll get to go out again. It’s already November, and it’s best to sell it when it’s still the best season to go out on the boat. I don’t mean to root against him selling it or anything…

Wakeboarding

gem took a few photos of Anela at the back of the boat while Pete worked on the engine.

Wakeboarding

Shes pretty much looking right at Pete here, so I’m sure he said something hilarious – typical Pete.

Here’s our rescue team! First there was the Rescue Anela, but then Rescue gem joined her!

We were all in varying states of injury, so there was actually much less wakeboarding than usual, and slower wakeboarding at that.

Here’s some evidence that there was indeed some wakeboarding at least. – Anela wakeboarding.

And here’s me wakeboarding. I tried touching the water a few times. Less than graceful, but so what? I don’t think it’s in the video, but they wanted me to switch hands turn around while wakeboarding. It didn’t go so well, but I still had a great time wakeboarding that day!

wakeboarding picture frame

After we finished wakeboarding, we headed to Michael’s (after a brief detour to a pet store). I like this photo quite a bit. We ended the evening with both Eiswelt Gelato and Yogurtland and then some Super Mario Maker. It might have taken me a month and a half to post about it, but it was a fantastic day.

Hatha for Hunger

Hatha for Hunger 2015

Saturday night was Hatha for Hunger, a Halloween gala hosted through Purple Yoga to raise money for hungry children. It was held at the Long Beach Museum of Art and kicked off with two yoga classes – an outdoor sunset vinyasa flow and an indoor gentle flow.

Hatha for Hunger 2015

I chose the outdoor class and had my mat near the front so I could easily see the ocean. It was quite beautiful and hosted by two of my favorite instructors, Alex and Sean, as well as Scott, who I didn’t know.

Hatha for Hunger 2015

Here’s the view at the end. It was one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve even taken.

Hatha for Hunger 2015

I took the easy path and wore my Aquabats costume. I didn’t put together a new costume, and this seemed like the easiest costume in which to do yoga. gem went as a mermaid!

Hatha for Hunger 2015, me as an Aquabat and Alex

Here’s a photo of me and Alex after the class.

Hatha for Hunger 2015, Sean as caveman and me as Aquabat

Sean didn’t club too many people during class.

Hatha for Hunger 2015, Sean and gem

Here’s a great photo of Sean and gem. I’m glad I got one in which you can actually see gem’s costume.

Hatha for Hunger 2015, Sterling and Megan

Here I am with Sterling the wrestler and Megan as a… okay, I think I can remember it all… mermaid, butterfly, unicorn… and Flavor Flav if you consider her clock purse (not shown).

Oh, and I wore the socks my grandmother gave me a few months ago because she confused me for someone else and thought I loved crazy socks. One has burgers and the other has fries. I think it goes well with the Aquabats costume.

Hatha for Hunger 2015, Kel, Jai, gem, me, aquabat

I squeezed into the frame with gem, Jai, and Kel for this great photo.

Hatha for Hunger 2015, JT as Forrest Gump and me as Aquabat

Last but not least, I danced with Forrest Gump (JT). Such an awesome costume!

It was a super fun evening. Besides yoga and taking photos, there was also some wine and champagne, great music, and lots of socializing. DJ Dory was there, playing music for the outdoor flow and the party afterwards. I also made some new friends, talking about yoga, working out, music, dancing, and more. Yay for new friends! I’m thankful to everyone who helped make it what it was, including staff and attendees alike!

(But sorry to my other friends at Rita’s party that I didn’t see, heh. I was too sleepy.)

Cirque du Soleil’s inspiring and breathtaking Kurios

KuriosCirque du Soleil was in town this weekend, and there was no way I’d miss it. I went with gem Friday night to watch Kurios under the Grand Chapiteau!

Kurios

Everything I read indicated that this was one of the best Cirque du Soleil presentations to date. It really was fantastic, but it’s hard to conclude any sort of “winner” when every Cirque show is amazing.

KuriosI really had to resist purchasing goggles and a hat. They would have integrated with an Aquabats costume in a fun way!

Kurios

The show had a steampunk aesthetic and was filled with lots of typical performances, great music, and some more novel performances.

I particularly enjoy the scenes that involve some extreme showcase of the human body with which I have some personal familiarity in a minor way. For example, the aerial bike scene that involved a woman riding a bike that was attached to a cable. She rode it around the stage before riding it through the air, and then performed a trapeze-like act on it. It reminded me of aerial hoops, and while I’ve never done that, I know people who have. The contortionists were another example. The back bends they did were so amazing. When I do back bends, they don’t look like theirs!

One act, the invisible circus, has one perform showcasing a variety of “acts” involving invisible performers and animals. It’s all about his reaction and some prop movements. I particularly enjoyed the invisible lion, mostly because it’s an interesting consideration of animals in the circus.

Of the more atypical acts, there was a chair balancing act that had an inverted version happening concurrently from the ceiling with a performer stacking chairs downward. At first, I thought it was a projection, but nope, it was happening! There was also a performer in another act using his hands like puppets to act out scenes. This was filmed and projected above on a floating balloon that was really cool.

Kurios was an excellent show that was truly inspiring. I just wish I had another Cirque du Soleil show approaching to anticipate! Whatever comes next, I know I’ll love it too.

 

 

Michigan Vacation

Cottage trip in MichiganEarlier this month, I spent a little over a week in Michigan with a day in Canada. Duncan visits family there and asked if I wanted to come this year. Of course! We stayed with his dad, Dan, who was incredibly accomdating. I’d met him previously, but it was nice getting to know him as well as Duncan’s brother, Griffin. There’s a sense of humor that runs in his family I think. After a layover in Denver, we arrived in Detroit early Saturday morning, went back to Dan’s house, and slept for a bit. That evening, we spent some time seeing Ann Arbor. Fairy doors of Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor has these little fairy doors scattered around the city. We only saw one, but they seemed pretty interesting to me.

Fairy doors of Ann Arbor

You can read about them at Wikipedia’s Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor. If I went back, I’d spend more time looking for the others. University of Michigan We spent some time walking around the University of Michigan, which was pretty cool. I saw Tau Beta Pi’s Bent and had to get a picture with it! Ann Arbor had a really cool downtown area and was a great city overall. The weather was nice too; it was the first time I had ever been that far north or east, so it was quite a bit different. The day we landed, the high was about 15 degrees lower than Irvine’s low. Cottage trip in Michigan

On Sunday we left for the cottage. We spent a lot of time visiting cities near it, eating, taking in the sights, and playing board games. I like how quickly Dan and Griffin learned our inside jokes. Oh, Loaded Questions’ “Duncan questions.” There’s another picture of the cottage at the top of this post.

Cottage trip in Michigan

I know this isn’t a fantastic shot or anything, but it was cool seeing so much of the night sky there. Crow on the lake The cottage was right on the lake, so it seemed like a beautiful spot for some yoga. Thanks for the photo, Griffin! It was really amazing seeing the changing colors of the trees too even if they weren’t fully changing yet. I felt like every day I’d be amazed all over again. skipping stones One of the highlights (yeah, it was a highlight!) was learning to skip stones on the lake. Simple, yet fun. Mackinac Island

We visited Mackinac Island after driving to the Upper Peninsula, which was pretty cool. It was a fort used in the Revolutionary War (among other wars). It seemed surreal to be thinking about the Revolutionary War.

Mackinac Island

Cars weren’t allowed on the island, but there were plenty of horses. Oh, and there was fudge. I bought two pounds of fudge to take home. Unfortunately, most of it’s gone by now. Mackinac Island

Every fort needs some cannons.

Mackinac Island

Did you know that this region has black squirrels? Black squirrels! Mackinac Island

The island had plenty of trees.

Mackinac Island

Here’s a shot of me while I was there. Thanks, Duncan.

Mackinac Island

Birds totally bore me at zoos, but I learned that I like taking photographs of them. This guy really wanted our fudge. Lighthouse visit

During our mini-vacation to the cottage, we also visited this lighthouse.

Lighthouse visit

It was just a tad foggy but very beautiful.

Jackie and Kenneth

After returning to Ann Arbor, we met with Jackie and Kenneth. I know I should have visited sooner, but at least I did eventually!

Jackie and Kenneth

We all went out to eat at the Jolly Pumpkin, which was amazing, except I ate way too much pizza. It was really wonderful talking with Jackie and Kenneth again. I’m glad it just felt like old times. It’s funny how many nights I spent talking with Jackie back in college. It makes me all nostalgic!

Robot Supply and Repair

Duncan and I had to represent Robot House by doing the robot in front of Robot Supply and Repair.

Graffiti Alley

We also saw a ton of cool street art!

DetroitOn Thursday, Griffin got us lost in the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. I thought we might have to live there when the elevators wouldn’t let us back out. Detroit

What’s with Detroit and secret places? We walked all around Slows BBQ before realizing this was the door.

DetroitAt the John K. King Used and Rare Books store, I bought a book called The World of Odysseus. I’m excited to read it! White Castle

That night we had White Castle for dinner. Um, you know how frozen White Castle food sucks? The fast food joint is actually pretty tasty! Granted I felt sick the next day (as I was told I might), but I’ve already found myself craving it again.

Niagara FallsIt was time to head to Canada on Friday! I hadn’t left the country before this and was super excited. Even if Canada isn’t that culturally different, it was still thrilling. I rented a car, and we started by going to Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls

See, I guess I like birds now.

Niagara FallsI was surprised that it wasn’t louder. It was breathtaking though. Give California some of that water, jerks. Niagara Falls Here’s me and Duncan courtesy of a friendly stranger. Duncan had been to the US side before and said the view was much better from the Canadian side. Niagara Falls

Before driving to Toronto, I had some coffee and a Canadian Maple donut from Tim Horton’s. I had to be cliche. It was good, and there really are a ton of Tim Horton’s in Canada.

Dr. MarioToronto doesn’t make a big deal about this, but apparently Dr. Mario lives there. Amazing. Lockhart We had dinner and drinks at The Lockhart, a bar inspired by Harry Potter. The food was good, and the cocktails were amazing. I had The Captain Picard, “(2oz)Earl Grey Infused (Bombay) Gin, Agave, Lime, Tonic,” and a Cafe Moscow, “(3oz)Espresso infused Vodka, Baileys, Kahlua, Agave, Choc. Sprinkles (opt.), Coffee Bitters.” Untitled

The next day we spent most of the day looking for sights from Scott Pilgrim, although we also went to the University of Toronto and a few other places.

Sonic Boom

Sonic Boom is a record store at which Scott Pilgrim shops. It was pretty cool, and I bought a shirt.

Toronto Public LibraryHere’s the library at which Scott sees Ramona rollerblade up the counter. Park

This park was used in the movie, although there was a lot of post-production done on the scene.

UntitledWhile not super recognizable, the house with the bit of blue was used at Scott Pilgrim’s place in the film. Casa Loma

Casa Loma was where Lucas Lee was filming in Scott Pilgrim.

Casa LomaThink I could do a grindy thingy on that rail? Pizza Pizza Scott Pilgrim and friends eat at Pizza Pizza, and now I do too. Not bad. Pizza Pizza

Pizza Pizza also served poutine, which killed two birds with one stone.

Lee's Palace

Lee’s Palace is where Sex Bob-omb opens for The Clash at Demonhead. We didn’t go inside, but it sure had an awesome exterior!

Lee's Palace

Here’s one final shot for the vacation, me standing outside Lee’s Palace.

It was such a great trip! I wish I could have done more, but honestly, we really packed a lot into the vacation.

I have plenty more of my photographs posted on Flickr, and I’ll have more up on social media too. Thanks to everybody who made the trip great – Duncan, Dan, Griffin, Jackie, Kenneth, and a lot of others!

Atomic Ballroom Student Showcase: Celebrate the Magic

Atomic Ballroom Student Showcase: Celebrate the Magic

Atomic Ballroom’s Student Showcase was this weekend. Because gem’s loud and quick to yell when told that the loudest person wins tickets, she won tickets to the show. The theme was “Celebrate the Magic” featuring Disney music. It was pretty awesome! I particularly liked watching the shadows dance when these two were in the right position on stage. Besides this, I didn’t take many photos.

Atomic Ballroom Student Showcase: Celebrate the Magic

The performers were really good. It was nice to see people of so many different levels dance. I’m sure it took a lot of guts for some of them to get up there. I really enjoyed pieces such as “Kiss the GIrl” from The Little Mermaid, featuring a shimmery, mermaid-tail-like dress, “Strangers Like Me” from Tarzan, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan, and “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin with an awesome dance (that suddenly made me really sad when I thought of Robin Williams and then the closing of Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular. I just noticed while looking at the program that one of the dancers in that Aladdin piece, Jeff Glass, is a psychiatrist at the Long Beach VA. How cool! For all I know, he could have helped my father.

Oh, and I have to add that there was an adorable little girl doing some of the transitions. One time she was a mermaid, one time she ran across the stage dressed as Indiana Jones and running from a “boulder,” and one time she was Rapunzel.

After the showcase, there were complimentary refreshments. I ate too much, but the food was delicious. It was a lovely evening!

Birthdays, Long Beach Sand Sculpture Festival, and games

This weekend was fun for a couple reasons. First, there was a party for Duncan and Matt’s birthdays. We had dinner, socialized, and played some games.

Reese's s'more

This is probably the only photo worth sharing. Yep, that’s a s’more with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and giant marshmallow.

Picnic in Long Beach

This weekend was also the Long Beach Sand Sculpture Music & Art Festival. It was so much fun! I probably would have had the same amount of fun even if the festival wasn’t there and we just went to the beach haha.

Picnic in Long Beach

We had a tasty meal of Korean BBQ burritos from Seoulmate in the park before heading down to the beach. I used one of those giant, human-sized hamster balls and slammed into people. I don’t have any photos yet because they weren’t on my phone. It was fun, but it was hot. So hot. I also jammed my thumb back while inside, and it was aching all day (and more). It’s getting better though! When I got out, I was feeling dizzy from the heat and dehydration. We got some water and then went into the ocean to cool off.

There were lots of cool dogs to watch as well as the sand sculptures themselves of course. I brought my DSLR out for the first time, and Luke helped me a ton. It was a hand-me-down, and I didn’t have the manual nor did I know much about it. I might not have the skill, but at least Luke explained what most things mean. I feel much better about using it now!

We also visited a skateboard stand. Anela and gem got skateboarding lessons! They didn’t care about the guys.

Oh, and I played with hula-hoops! It was super fun actually!

I also got to playtest Joe’s new super hero board game. It’s pretty amazing. He’s really talented in a lot of different, creative ways. I’d share photos, but I wouldn’t want to leak an unreleased game. 🙂

iHookah, relaxing with friends, and more

iHookah

In addition to the OC Fair about which I already posted, my weekend was full of some other things too. For starters, Antonio and I went with Anela to iHookah, where she danced.

Thankfully, that’s a still photograph and not a video. In that case, let me assure you that Antonio and I are amazing dancers. Thanks to iHookah for posting photos! It was Antonio’s first time smoking hookah, and it was a good time. I really like iHookah too; they have great service, and the staff is super friendly. It’s fun to watch Anela dance too!

I also hung out at gem’s a few times. On Friday, gem, Anela, and I had dinner, watched TV, and played Super Mario 3D World with gem’s brother. Sunday night, after the OC Fair, gem, Antonio, and I took turns playing Splatoon. It reminded me of being a kid!

As usual, what a terrific weekend!

OC Fair 2015

OC Fair 2015

It’s that special time of the year where I eat terrible fried foods, watch bunnies, and look at all the cool competitions – the OC Fair! This weekend I went with gem and Antonio and had a great time!

OC Fair 2015

I definitely ate some bad food, including some fried Oreos. It’s not a fair without high calorie food. It was delicious, but my stomach did seem a tad confused at the terribly unhealthy food it received.

OC Fair 2015

I really enjoy looking at the collections every year.

OC Fair 2015

This ticket collection by John Dettle was one of my favorites (probably because I have my own). I assume they’re all tickets of events he attended himself, but I guess I don’t know for sure.

I also love looking at the other competitions – food, place settings, photography and other visual arts, crafts, it’s all so cool. There were a lot of cool photographs and paintings, giving me a lot of cool inspiration and ideas despite not being super artistic myself. The place settings are always interesting too. This surprised me the first year I saw them; I didn’t expect to care, but I do! There were lots of neat crafts too. I especially like the scrapbooking!

This rabbit was my favorite. He was super energetic, running in circles, climbing on his box, and jumping over his box. As soon as I had the idea to record him doing it, he stopped jumping over it. I was patient, and he eventually jumped over it for me!

We played a coin tossing game, and gem won a small prize! She intends to give it to Sumo. I was hoping to win a minion so I could send a video to my cousins of Sumo chomping it, but I wasn’t good enough to win one.

OC Fair 2015

I ended my fair trip by taking photos of flowers!

Kiwi bowl

Kiwi bowl

I had an orange bowl and a watermelon bowl from Color Me Mine, so I recently decided to add to the collection by painting a kiwi bowl.

Kiwi bowl

My photographs don’t show the outside much, but it’s brown, unsurprisingly. It’s actually bigger than my other two bowls, which I guess is kind of sad since kiwis are smaller. But I think it’s cute anyways.

Kiwi bowl

And here is is on its first day of holding food.

They grow up so fast.