May 162011

CheesesteakThe twin halls of Independence and Constitution were within easy walking distance of the hotel.

On account of the late hour, most of the attractions were closed, but got good tips on getting inside the actual Independence Hall the next day: arrive early, the free tickets are given out in fifo-order.

Walked past the Liberty Bell building and snapped a few photos. Probably good enough to avoid a later visit altogether (I paid my dues half a decade ago – getting subjected to the tightest scrutiny thus far).

Ate at Campo’s, a classic cheesesteak joint in the old town. Chose the version with the works, mushrooms and peppers in addition to the traditionl combination of meat, cheez-wiz and onions. The almost overstuffed sandwich was at times hard to eat. Also had the first local beers: Yards Brawler and PPA (Philadelphia Pale Ale) were an excellent companion to the greasy dish.

As it had started to rain, just had to nip into a neighbordhood bar to tide over the drizzle. The service at Continental was impeccable, attentive and informative, just the thing that 24% tips are made of.

Finished the walk with a molten chocolate cake atop the hotel, the restaurant offered a decent view, a great dessert and an enjoyable sports-discussion with the bartender.

Constitution Hall

Aug 292010

Manolo Blahnik coke-canA promotional coca cola light can, as reimagined by somewhat famous shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.

These cans were distributed rather liberally in Akateeminen Kirjakauppa during the recent night of the arts. Picked one up, just in case (and was anyway short of soda for Saturday morning).

Thus far I’ve had no need to own anything by him, and I’m unlikely to change my opinion based on this object.

Jul 172010

Back in the late eighties when the amount of alcohol in beer was still one of the factors whether to purchase a given brand, I noted that the further up the scale you go, the worse the taste is. I still harbor a serious aversion to Golden Pride which a friend of mine brought home half a suitcase from England.

Those days of Elefant and others in the ~11% scale are long gone.

As the Time magazine article explains, the competition between BrewDog and Schorschbräu has upped the ante above 40%. While likes of Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck! would be interesting to taste, the cost would be prohibitive indeed.

Jul 152010

Laputa robot on the roof of the Ghibli MuseumThe last evening of the April grand tour of Japan was spent in the Ghibli Museum.

The museum is located in Mitaka, some 40 minutes away from Shinjuku by train, and requires a ticket purchased in advance.

The former condition is not too bad, the efficiency of the Tokyo municipal traffic system reaches the western suburbs easily.

The latter, on the other hand, needed some hands-on assistance from locals. The tickets are sold in the ubiquitous Lawson stores (think 7-11), but not across the counter. Instead the way to obtain them is to deal with a thoroughly native vending machine. The helpful clerk in the store in the basement of the hotel couldn’t be thanked enough – the purchase was as smooth as they can be.

The train ride took us through the suburbia, and the metropolis quickly gave way to more low-key accommodations. Houses grew in size and the idea of actually owning a car seemed no longer as alien as it had in downtown.

Ghibli MuseumThe museum is located some two klicks away from the station. And even if there would have probably been enough time to reach it by walking, it was ar easier to grab the door-to-door bus instead.

Ghibli museum is a single house, positively tiny in comparison to museums of the world. But few other museums pack a roof garden festooned with the robot from Laputa.

The museum is a “no photo”-zone, and I put away the camera for the duration of the visit. Inside that is, the top image of the entry bears witness that photography was kosher outside.

The interior is divided into rooms of various sizes. Some packed with tons of objects and images (storyboarding/animation workshop), some with just a single toy (a cat bus, constrained to kids only). Despite the carefully allocated timeslots for visitors, the museum was quite quite packed. Japanese politeness meant that it was pretty much easy to reach all sights with an appropriate amount of waiting.

The basement of the museum has a movie theatre that shows short films that have not appeared on dvd yet. The movie of the day was Looking for a home. Would have preferred the Mei and the Kittenbus, a surprise continuation of Totoro, but any film that contains images of huge catfish is OK+ in my book.

The giftshop contained both kitch and objects of desire. Didn’t pick up a statuette; they were not really browseable, and I already had Professor Layton claiming a big slice of the suitcase.

Ghibli Museum BeerEven if the museum closed, the outdoor cafeteria remained open. Capped the visit with a bottle of Ghibli Museum Beer – a brew uniquely available at the location only.

Tastewise the beer was very pleasant – sweeter than the usual Japanese fare, and equipped with a very fancy label.

The local four-wheeled variant of the catbus returned visitors to the train station.

Apr 182009

Berlin - Wall closeupHere’s the five day trip in a very condensed form:

  • Pictures taken: 403 + 24 (camera + phone).
  • Kilometers walked: plenty (forgot the pedometer home).
  • Methods of public transport tried: 2 of 4 (missing the trams and buses).
  • Trips outside the city: None.
  • Finns sighted: Several groups.
  • Currywurst eaten: Once (it’s quite OK).
  • Wall fragments seen: Just a few.
  • Geocaches found and logged: Two (both virtuals), one more sighted but unavailable on account of being mobbed with muggles.
  • Pieces of the wall bought: Two.
  • Semi-touristy t-shirts bought: Two.
  • Berlin accent comprehensibility: Quite high (especically when compared to Bavaria and Austria).
  • Moments of utter misnavigation: One (the first foray on the eastern side).
  • Really good bookstores discovered: None, quite an omission.
  • Pictures of the Ampelmann: Just one (of the green man).
  • Official stars possessed by the hotel: Five.
  • Missed exhibits on personal heroes: Two (Dali and Hitchcock).
  • Museums visited: Just one (the Reichstag does not count).
  • Movies bought: Zero.
  • Classic german police shows available on dvd: Plentiful (though missed Ein Fall für Zwei in the shops).
  • Locals drinking beer in inappropriate places: Quite a few – including the zoo (happily enough none of them were the least bit on the belligerent side).
  • Long queues: Two (Reichstag and Zoo).
  • Pleasant flavors of mixed Berliner Kindls: One and a half.
  • Recommended locations visited: Two out of ten (Treptower Monument and Prater Biergarten).
  • Time spent surfing the web: Very little – the hotel WLAN connection was very expensive, and there was something else to do almost the whole time.
  • New volumes of Ehapa’s Hall of Fame-series seen: Zero.
  • Locals selling newspapers on the subway: Almost on every second trip.
  • Well-lit sidewalks: Quite rare.
  • Kebab eaten: No, and that’s a real shame.
  • Shorts-season opened: Yes.
  • Appreciation of the producer-specific champagne-bars in KaDeWe: High.
  • Coming back: Definitely.
Dec 282008

Head of a straw pig

  • It’s a bad omen when (according to tickets) there’s 150+ folks lining up for service before you in a shop.
  • Spaces (the virtual desktop provided in OS X Leopard) rules – too bad Office 2008 does not fully co-operate when it’s used.
  • Didn’t OD on turkey this year either. Tried hard, the stuffing alone was fabulous.
  • Didn’t update to 2.7 yet – it’s coming, rest assured.
  • Plevnan Petolintu gets the “hopsiest beer”-award for December.
  • And yes, that IS a straw pig. Why should it be only goats that get represented in the medium?
  • Detroit Lions looks set to be the first NFL team to finish a season 0-16.