April 16, 2012

Visting Washington DC

Filed under: Culture,travel — mmrobins @ 8:48 pm

I spent this past week in Washington DC for orientation for my new job at LivingSocial. I’ll be working in Portland, but they’re headquartered there, so the week is to meet some people face to face and get to know the company.

I enjoyed the city more than I would have thought. There’s an amazing amount to do, great food, and the whether was gorgeous. I don’t think I could visiting in the summer when it gets too hot, but the spring is a lot like Portland when it’s nice.

Kim decided not to come with since she doesn’t know anyone in the city, and there was no guarantee how much time I’d have to spend with her and Geneveve. It turned out I had plenty of free time to see the sights outside of work since little extra activity was scheduled outside the normal work day, and really I could just as easily work at night.

This meant that I had the opportunity to spend time seeing the monuments, at the Smithsonian museums (natural history, air and space, art), the Newseum (one of the few museums with an admission, but well worth it), shows (plays, movies and musicals) and eat plenty of good food. It’s been rare since having a baby to be able to do those sorts of things, so while I was on my own I made the most of it and filled my time up as much as possible.

I was able to get around the city very quickly with a really cool bike sharing program called Capital Bike Share. For $15 I could grab a bike from all over the city, go to my destination, and drop it off. It was incredibly convenient – next time I’ll need to remember to bring my own helmet since those aren’t provided and I kept getting to bike shops after they closed so I never bought one. The city streets felt pretty safe though with plenty of bike lanes, and traffic never moves to fast with all the lights and intersections.

During the day I would go to the main LivingSocial office, which is about a block from the White House, but there are offices all over the downtown DC area, and I visited a few to get to know what people who use some of the software I may write do with their day to day jobs. LivingSocial is a much bigger company than I’m used to working at, but if has the semi-chaotic feel of smaller, startup companies.

I’m looking forward to returning to DC, and when I do I’ll have to remember to book some tours of the major government buildings like the Capitol and the Pentagon in advance. Unfortunately, these aren’t places that you can just walk into on any given day, at least that I could figure out. There’s still more to see in and do than could possibly be seen or done.

April 27, 2008

Going to Disney World VIP Style

Filed under: Culture,travel — mmrobins @ 7:33 pm

One of our friends from Seattle just happened to be in Florida this week for her brother’s graduation, and he happens to work at Disney. As luck would have it, he was awesome enough to get us into everything for free with Fast Passes allowing us to never wait in line for anything. With all that time and money saved we went to all three major kingdoms that I hadn’t been to before: Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and MGM Studios which for some crazy reason is now Hollywood studios.

We started off at Animal Kingdom and spent more than half the day there. It immediately became apparent how awesome going with someone who works for Disney (big thanks to our host again) is when we got in for free saving us around $100 per person. It just got better when we found out we no longer had to wait in any lines like the rest of the schmucks. I hate lines, but I do love rides so this was pretty durn ideal. We went on a lot of rides including roller coasters, safaris and musical shows (not really a ride, but cool nonetheless). We saw some cool animals up close including a white rhino that was a few feet from my seat in the vehicle. Plus going along with a Disney employee he knew a bunch of interesting facts and trivia like where there’s hidden Mickeys, how the Magic Kingdom would fit inside just the safari ride at Animal Kingdom (it’s big), and where the best drinking fountains are, which helps to save buying bottled water for $2 a bottle.

After lunch we went to Magic Kingdom, which is a lot like the Disneyland in California that I’d been too, but still bigger. We did the classics like Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but it was fun to see the “classic” Disney park. We then went to MGM Studios for my favorite ride of the day: Tower of Terror. It’s basically one of those elevator style rides where you’re in a seat that raise then drops when you least expect it, but it’s in the dark most of the time. I already love those rides, but almost all those thrill rides are more thrilling in the dark. For example, I bet Space Mountain would seem like a really lame kiddy coaster if it were done with the lights on. By this time we had ridden more than a dozen things and seen all sorts of stuff, so we were exhausted. It’s hard work being VIP at Disney :-)

October 24, 2007

Week 3+ in Huanchaco

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 4:07 pm

It’s been a good week since moving. I didn’t surf as much as I wanted to because I wanted to let an injury to my toe heal, but as it was close to being better I slipped and stubbed my injured toe. Ouch. Oh well. I got Kim to start going out with me and she’s rocking the surf scene. We’ve been taking a few lessons from Juan Carlos from Un Lugar Surf School. Kim got hit in the nose with her board the other day. Overall though we’re having tons of fun even if it’s a little cold. There’s been more sunny days lately.

I’ve had ups and downs teaching. Some days I really enjoy it. Those are the days when I feel like my small class of three students listens and learns. It’s rewarding to see students “getting it”. There’s some days though where I feel like I’m in front of a pack of crazy brats. I know an hour and a half is a long time to sit and learn stuff, so I try to make it as active and entertaining as possible. I’ve found with such a small class doing a question and answer format seems to work best for me. I ask them questions about the material until they start to seem comfortable, then I have them ask each other questions. Sometimes we do a jeopardy style game, sometimes spelling bees, sometimes bingo, and other games too.

I’ve got the page up for Espaanglisch, the school I’m working for, even if it needs some polishing. David Mercedes is the head of the organization and the best Peruvian friend I’ve made here. He’s passionate about languages and cultures, and I hope the organization can make good use of the new web presence.

We haven’t gone too far out of the city since we’ve been here, which has been really quite nice. We keep meaning to take a weekend trip to Chiclayo or someplace a few hours away, but the chill atmosphere keeps us nearby. We visited some more ruins called the Huacas del Sol y Luna. I think they were cooler than Chan Chan since they were better preserved. They’re temples that are pretty big since every hundred years they’d fill up the temple with bricks and build a new level on top of the old.

I’ve got some interesting observations about culture and people here:

  • Wall clocks never work. They either don’t have a battery or have the wrong time
  • People here have a higher tolerance for noise. Honking horns, blaring stereos, skipping movies, constant contruction, and barking dogs don’t seem to phase the locals
  • There’s no such thing as too full when it comes to local transportation. Even if the aisles are stuffed, people are sitting in each others laps, and the ticket man is hanging out the door the combis will stop for more people.
  • Business hours are flexible. Even more so than Spain where the siesta was at a consistent time. There’s one restaurant that was open only a couple times in our first two weeks. Now it’s open all the time. Sometimes the restaurant will appear open when there’s nobody there to actually cook. Sometimes the wait staff will tell you this, sometimes they won’t…

The end of the month is approaching quickly, and we’re not sure exactly what we’ll be doing. We’ve had trouble getting the Otra Cosa volunteer coordinators to nail down our next volunteer project, so we may just head north to Ecuador for a little while before we figure out what we’re doing next. We might end up doing a project near Iquitos, in the jungle, but it’s all up in the air right now. Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be fun and interesting.

September 27, 2007

¡Estamos en Peru!

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 1:05 pm

Kim and I arrived in Lima two days ago. The first night we got in a little after 8PM so we didn’t do much before going to bed, just walked around a little. Our first hostal was called Inkawasi even though we meant to go to Inka Lodge. This mistake happened because I made our reservation from our South America guide book and we used our Peru specific guidebook to find the hostal the night we arrived and just picked the closest name. It all turned out okay and we didn´t even realize it until we had spent two nights. Ha ha.

We mostly walked around Miraflores the first day. The coolest part was the cliffs along the ocean looking out into the greyness. Lima is constantly under a cloud during every season except summer (it’s early spring here now), so it’s not really all that warm here. I’ve had to switch over to pants, a jacket and shoes after so long in shorts and flip flops. We’ve been eating at the vegetarian restaurants in the guidebook and I’m sure Kim will have full reviews of them on her blog :-) It’s been very good and we just had mushroom ceviche.

We also went to a film that was all in Spanish called “Los Borgia” and barely could understand the dialogue. We doing pretty well with our Spanish in conversations that we’re involved in, but it’s going to be a while before we can understand other people’s conversations since they’re often much faster and use words we probably don’t know yet. It’s fun and challenging to get back into the swing of another language.

In the evening we went to the neighborhood Barranco to a bar. There was live music which was fun. Overall the bar scene was pretty dead since it’s off season on a week night. A ten minute taxi ride there was about $2. We took the bus back which was only about 60 cents. The currency is called soles and one dollar is worth about 3 soles.

We just moved to a hostal that’s $10 per night in central Lima. We were paying $30 per night in Miraflores. I love the dollar exchange rate, even if it’s really dropped in the last few years. The architecture is much more interesting here in Central Lima and everything seems cheaper. I’m not sure why most tourists go to Miraflores. Anyway, later today we’ll probably see a museum or something and then have some pisco sours.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, we’re in the same time zone as Eastern Standard Time, but there’s no daylight savings time down here, so we’re equal to Central Time until y’all fall back. For you west coasters, that means we’re two hours ahead of you right now and will be three hours ahead after your next time change. We have a cell phone now too, so if you want to call me feel free. I sent out the number in a mass email, but let me know if you didn’t get it and want to call.

August 2, 2007

Chimp-n-Sea Wildlife Conservation

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 2:06 pm

Some friends of ours, Michael Stern and Rebecca Goldstone, recently returned to Seattle after living a year in Africa setting up a non-profit foundation called Kibale Rainforest. They gave a talk about their experiences and it sounds like they’re doing a great thing. It’s certainly inspiring to see a couple so young and so motivated making a difference and doing something so altruistic. It makes me feel that my upcoming trip to South America to volunteer is actually selfish since I’m doing it in large part because I want a big vacation, but on a positive note it makes me realize how possible it is for small groups of people to make a difference, and that young people can be those people. Kim and I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them since they’ve been so busy, but they’ll be staying with us the next few nights so we’ll get to hear some of the details.

May 28, 2007

King of Kong

Filed under: Culture — mmrobins @ 7:12 pm

I finally went to the Egyptian theater! I’ve been waiting for a movie to be there that I wanted to see since I moved to Capitol Hill. Pan’s Labyrinth had been playing for about 2 months since we moved in and I’d already seen it, but finally the Seattle International Film Festival is going on and there’s plenty of selection. The first film I went to see was awesome! King of Kong is a documentary about a guy from Redmond’s quest to set a new world record high score for the classic video game Donkey Kong. This documentary turned out to have an almost hollywood movie-like plot with a protagonist, an antagonist, plot twists and a Rocky style underdog challenge. No romantic story though, thank goodness. In fact, there’s news this movie might be adapted to a Hollywood film with actors. Weird. Perhaps the best part of all is that after the film the guy from Redmond was actually there with his family to answer questions along with the director. He seems like a very humble, nice guy, whereas the rest of the ‘characters’ in the movie seem like something from a Christopher Guest movie – think Best in Show, but about video gamers.

Too bad it’s not showing anymore at the Film Festival, but when it comes out officially in August I’d be down with seeing it again with whoever wants to go.

Sasquatch Music Festival 2007

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 5:56 pm

For the second year in a row Kim and I went to the Gorge to see a few days of bands at the Sasquatch Music Festival. It was only two days instead of three this year, and nobody went with us this time whereas Travis came last year.

The highlight of the weekend for me was definitely seeing Manu Chao play. I found his music while living in Spain thanks to my roommates. He played third to last on Saturday night, and played longer than most other bands. He played a few songs I haven’t heard before, but played a lot of the songs from his Clandestino album that I wanted to hear. Of course, nothing he played live sounded quite like the songs from the album. His band, the Radio Bemba Sound System, was very energetic and had the crowd jumping up and down and waving their hands pretty much the whole time. He wove a small bit of Bob Marley’s song “War” into his mix too. The rest of Saturday was fun, and the weather was gorgeous. I really don’t care that much about Bjork’s music, but she was interesting to see live.

Sunday was frickin windy and cold. Early in the day I mostly just tried to deal with the wind and rest. When it became apparent that our primo hillside seats were way too cold to sit in we started moving around to the other stages and had more fun. Smoosh was definitely one of the most novel bands I saw. It’s two barely teenaged girls who put on a pretty good music show, far beyond what you’d expect from girls their age. If I had a daughter I definitely would want her to see these girls rocking out as an example of what young girls can achieve. After their show the wind really picked up and they shut down the main stage for most of the afternoon. This had the side of effect of forcing the Beastie Boys and Spearhead to play at the same time on different stages. We decided to see Spearhead and were not disappointed. They played the longest of any band at the festival and included an awesome cover of Sublime’s “What I Got”. We tried to run over and catch the Beastie Boys before they finished, but their set was very short. We only caught the last little bit of Sabotage, which apparently was the encore.

I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to see some music at the Gorge the last few years as it’s an amazing music venue, even if the unpredictable weather can be a little overwhelming.

May 18, 2007

Reading Fiction

Filed under: Culture,General — mmrobins @ 12:56 am

I haven’t been writing as much lately, but I’ve definitely been reading more. This is mostly due to the fact that I’ve realized that I miss reading fiction. It seems like since I’ve graduated from college I’ve been drawn almost completely to nonfiction: biographies, educational, motivational, historical and scientific books. While I enjoy reading those books, it’s much more rare for them to suck me in and keep me up reading almost all night like I used to. In fact some of them help put me to sleep even when the subject matter does interest me.

Part of the reason I’ve been avoiding fictions is that I didn’t really like the fiction I was choosing. I was trying to read most of the books from a list of the top 100 best novels, but some of them, while great pieces of literature, bored the crap out of me. I recently found a book list that so far has really appealed to me: IBList. I was looking for the IMDB equivalent for books and it led me to IBList. While IBList isn’t nearly as expansive or useful as IMDB, it’s pointed me in the direction of some great reads. The top books on the site are really skewed toward science fiction, which is alright by me because I’ve been really into that lately.

I just finished reading Flowers for Algernon. I picked it up and couldn’t set it down until I was done. It kind of reminds me of the way Of Mice and Men made me feel. Anyway, very highly recommended. I just realized I ought to sign up for an account and contribute at least some ratings to IBList, if not reviews.

December 7, 2006

Video Games

Filed under: Culture — mmrobins @ 11:55 pm

I’ve been totally sucked into Final Fantasy XII and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the last month. Those games are huge and soooo much fun, but they’re really bad for my social life. So if you haven’t seen me since I got back from my honeymoon, that’s why. I decided to buy a Playstation 2 for really cheap instead of a new video game system like the Nintendo Wii. I figure there’s already a ton of great games for cheap for these old systems, and I didn’t want to wait in line to spend $300 for Zelda. It was close though. That new controller looks awfully fun.

October 10, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Filed under: Culture — mmrobins @ 12:59 am

Who’d ever have thought that listening to Al Gore give a slide show presentation could make and entertaining movie? I didn’t, but I was wrong. An Inconvenient Truth turned out to be another really great documentary. I thought going in that there wouldn’t be anything new since I felt I had done a bit of research on climate change – wrong again. There was plenty of interesting new information, and it was presented very, very well. I’m amazed at the amount of work that Al Gore has done on this topic: visiting both poles, giving 1000 presentations on the topic, visiting heads of countries to discuss the issue, and much more.