Happy Halloween!

One of the best parts of growing up in Edwardsville is that Halloween lasts for two nights instead of the just one.  For as long as I’ve been alive (and probably for a long time before that) we’ve had a Halloween parade on October 31st.  Since you can’t trick-or-treat and go to the parade at the same time, that means that we have to trick-or-treat on the 30th (and then again on the 31st after the parade if you’re ambitious lol).  After work yesterday I headed home and walked around with my sister, brother, and cousin.

While waiting for everyone to get ready, I ran across this blast from the past, circa 1999 or 2000:

I spent today working and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” since I couldn’t get home before the parade started.  Sigh….I miss the good old days.  Being too old to trick-or-treat is no fun at all. 🙂

PS: While we’re on the subject of Halloween, I hadn’t been to Six Flags St Louis for at least a couple of years, but I ended up going to Fright Fest twice this month, once with Natalie and once with Kim (the night Kim and I were there the Cards won the World Series– oh yeah, 11 in ’11!) and realized how much I missed it.  The roller coasters have nothing on the Six Flags in NJ that I went to with EK and her brother, but they’re familiar and bring back so many memories.  We didn’t do the haunted attractions either time (because they were more expensive and none of us are really into that) but it was fun anyway.  My favorite part, of course, was keeping up the tradition of ending the day by eating an entire waffle-cone from the World’s Fair ice cream parlor.  With chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, naturally.  Yummmmm 🙂

 

PPS: WordPress is refusing to let me center the third picture and it’s making me feel OCD crazy……….

Days 3 and 4 – Museums, Parks, and Sunsets

On Day 3 I woke up early, as per the usual, and headed off toward Golden Gate Park (which is actually no where near the Golden Gate Bridge).  Within a couple blocks I chanced upon a couple of transvestite prostitutes getting ready to duke it out, and about a block past that was just a regular prostitute looking for guys on the way to the office with a few minutes and a few bucks to spare.  Gotta love liberal San Fran…. Anyway, along the way to the park I walked through Japanese Town and past the Peace Pagoda.

After a pit stop in Starbucks, it was on to the park, which was apparently designed by the same guy who helped designed Central Park.  It was gorgeous.  I stopped by the Japanese Tea Garden….


…before heading over to free Wednesday at the California Academy of Science.  It was a cute museum complete with planetarium and rainforest enclosure, but I’m glad I didn’t have to pay $30 to experience it.  I had planned on going to the Botanical garden after lunch, thinking that it was also free, but when I saw that the admission price was $8, I decided to pass.  I wandered around the rest of the park slowly before coming to Ocean Beach a couple of hours before sunset.

It was windy and chilly, but sunny, and my whole day had been structured around wanting to see the sun set on the ocean.  I’ve only ever been to the Atlantic, so I’ve only ever seen sunrises, and I knew I’d regret it if I let this opportunity pass me by.  I was near the Coastal Trail again, so I retraced my steps for a while before heading back to the beach to look for sand dollars, eat dinner, and kill time.  Finally, about 15 minutes later than it was supposed to, the sun set.  There was a thin line of clouds on the horizon so I didn’t get to see it dip into the water, which was slightly disappointing, but it was gorgeous and worth it none-the-less.

The next morning I hiked one last time to the Boudin factory on Fisherman’s Wharf, had some sour dough bread and a peanut butter cookie for breakfast (I’d had a craving for peanut butter the whole time and that cookie did not disappoint), and walked down to see the sea lions again before heading back to the hostel to collect my things.  I still had time to kill, so I walked a couple blocks over to the cable car museum.  It was small, but interesting, and the fire alarm which went off in the middle of my visit served to waste just the right amount of time.

With nothing else to do and a heavy bag on my shoulder, I headed for the airport an hour or two earlier than necessary, had a photo finish connection in Denver, and was back at home by 10:30 central time, just in time to go to bed and get up for work the next day 🙂  I miss California already….. is it time for my November 2012 trip to Japan yet? lol

Day 2- Of Downtown and Prison

Day 2 was my “City” Day.  I woke early and schlepped back up to Fisherman’s Wharf to visit the Boudin sour bread factory (apparently sour bread is one of the things San Francisco is “known for,” though I wasn’t aware of it until I arrived).  The bread was almost too cute to eat….almost 😉

After breakfast I took the cable car down to the metro station and headed off for a brief jaunt over to UC Berkeley to check out the gorgeous campus.

Then it was back to downtown to check out the largest Chinatown in the US.  The entrance gate was rather unimposing compared to other cities I’ve visited.  I guess when you can claim to be the largest in the country you don’t need to stand behind a large, elaborate calling card.  I popped into a cafe for  some delicious green tea bubble tea and ended up being a witness to a screaming and pushing fight between some random lady and a beggar. The chinese owners and I did the usual “bury your head in the sand and pretend like nothing’s happening” routine, but some “good samaritans” came to the lady’s aid and helped shove the guy out of the shop.  I wanted to shake my head and say “so some mentally ill homeless guy called you a sl*t and a c*nt, so what?  Get over it and ignore him, you shouldn’t have engaged and egged him on in the first place” but of course I said nothing, just grabbed my tea and left.  That woman would not survive in NYC with such a thin skin…

Anyway, after that excitement I wandered around Chinatown some more before making my way through the neighboring financial district and over to the Embarcado, which is another area filled with piers and street markets.  I ran across an “Occupy San Francisco” protest complete with unwashed hippies and some guy whipping a girl before making my way to a restaurant called “The Melt.”  I’d read about the shop a couple months ago– it’s business plan involves selling only grilled cheese and soup.  I got the classic combo (chedder cheese and tomato soup) to see what all the fuss was about.  It was good, but not $9 good.

After lunch I wandered through the city up to Pier 33, where I was due to catch the boat to Alcatraz.  The weather was a little chilly and fog obscured what would have otherwise been a spectacular view of the city skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, but I was just glad the weather had been amazing the day before (and would be amazing the next day, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).  The 45 minute audio tour of the prison was actually very interesting and informative.  Apparently at any one time Alcatraz never had over 300 inmates, no one was executed there, and the average term was 7-10 years.  Oh, and there was a riot that lasted about 3 days, left 8 guards dead, and caused the US Army to drop grenades through holes in the roof.

After Alcatraz came souvenir shopping on Fisherman’s Wharf, a quick dinner, and an even quicker retreat to the warmth of the hostel for the night.

Day 1- Take Me to My City by the Bay

Let me just start off by saying that San Francisco is not a vacation for the lazy, unfit, or easily tired (unless, of course, you plan on spending an exorbitant amount of money taking public transportation everywhere— not recommended since the buses are filled with crazy people…much like NY…).  It shouldn’t be called the “City by the Bay,” it should be called the “City of OMG how is that big and steep of a hill even possible in an urban environment?”

I went to the airport straight from work on Sunday evening and caught a 6:45 flight with a connection in Denver.  The connection ended up delayed by about 20 minutes, which was just enough time to ensure that I missed the last metro train from SFO into the City by literally 5 minutes, though I did give it the old college try of running through the airport and hoping against hope.  Defeated, I hung my head, schlepped back through the airport, and found a shared ride van service in which seven or eight of us piled into a van and paid an overpriced fare (though still less than half what a taxi would cost) to get downtown.  The guy who was directing the vans seemed like he would be more at home as an extra on Boardwalk Empire than on the laid back California coast.  He had the 1920s gangster style hat and everything.  I really wanted to snap a picture, but unfortunately the service was too quick for that. I arrived at the hostel around 12:30am, fell into bed, and for some inexplicable reason, was awake and ready to go by 5am.  Needless to say, I made myself chill until 6:30ish.

Shortly after 7 I hopped on a bus which took me over to the Coastal Trail and gave me my first ever look at the Pacific Ocean.  It looks just like the Atlantic…. Happy as a clam (yes, EK, I really did just use that expression), I hiked on the trail for a good couple of hours, climbing up and down cliffs, getting my first views of the Golden Gate, and enjoying the sight and sound of the ocean with very few other people around.

The mood was dampened slightly when the trail diverted into a richy-rich neighborhood with homes which looked like they belonged in 1920s Hollywood, but I soon reached the Golden Gate and the charm returned.  It sounds presumptuous to say the Golden Gate is nothing spectacular (and the number of photographs I have on it would belie any claim that I wasn’t taken in), but being familiar with the imposing spectacle of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate seemed very…simple.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it was red and iconic, it probably wouldn’t have merited more than a second or third look.  But red and iconic it was, and of course I couldn’t visit San Francisco without walking across.

After I grabbed lunch, I headed to Ghiradelli Square for one of the best hot fudge brownie sundaes I’ve ever had.  It was the kind that you know is going to make you feel sick for hours afterwards, but it tastes so good at the time that you can’t bring yourself to care.  I strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf (one of the main tourist attractions) while I chowed down.  I did some window shopping, strolled down piers to look at old ships and sea lions, visited an old arcade game museum, and got my very first look at a cable car.

It was only 4:30 or so, but I’d walked at least 20 miles (no, I’m not exaggerating) on less than 4.5 hours of sleep, so I was pretty much done.  I headed to the hostel, took a shower, ate some dinner, ventured out briefly to check out the nearby Union Square (which is much like NYC’s Union Square), and then headed to bed.

(PS: Did you know that nudism is allowed on San Francisco beaches?  I was not aware, and was therefore caught somewhat off guard when an old guy in a shirt, with the rest of himself hanging free, came up and offered to take my picture in front of the Golden Gate.  Thank goodness NYC helped develop my poker face because I just kept my eyes level, gave a small smile, and answered “thanks, but I got it” lol)

Details

Even though it’s been over a month since I went to NYC, I just now got around to getting the pictures off my camera, and only because I’m flying to San Francisco Sunday night.  I found a bunch of pics I took of the Bethesda Fountain Terrace and it reminded me that I had planned to blog about how sometimes you fail to notice the exquisite details around you when you’re around a place too often.  Sometimes it’s nice to go away and come back with a fresh set of eyes.

All Relative

For those who don’t know, the GMAT, unlike the SAT, ACT, or LSAT, is administered on a computer.  You start with 2 30-minute essay sections, followed by a 37 question, 75 minute quant section, and ending with a 41 question, 75 minute verbal/critical reasoning section.  While your essays obviously can’t be scored the same day you take the test, the other two sections can, and it is these sections which make up your score on the scale from 200-800.  On the one hand, it’s instant gratification.  Yeah, you don’t know what your AWA (writing) score is, but before you get up from that chair, you know exactly how you did.  Of course, that can also mean instant depression…..

 

I took the GMAT this morning and am now fairly happy with my score of 740.  Overall that’s in the 97th percentile.  Not bad at all.  But.…my quant score is not that great if you look at the percentages.  Out of 51, I got a score of 46 on the verbal, which is the 99th percentile.  Out of 51, I got a score of 45 on the quant, which is the 71st percentile….. Yeah…..  My first reactions were “How the hell is my overall score in the 97th if my quant was in the 71st?” and “Damn it, I think I might need to take this again!”  I spent the whole drive home agonizing over whether I should or shouldn’t, and then spent the next half hour researching my top schools and trying to figure out if a 71st percentile quant would hurt me, even if my overall score was much higher than their median GMAT.  I kept reading about how schools want candidates to be balanced, but if you’re going to excel in something, it needs to be quant.  More agonizing.  I really didn’t want to pay another $250 to take the GMAT over, I wasn’t sure what more I could do to improve my quant score (aside from hundreds more practice problems), and, unlike the SAT, schools can see exactly how many times you’ve taken the GMAT and all scores which resulted.

 

Then it dawned on me….and I felt a little stupid….  My scores are balanced.  45 quant and 46 verbal.  It’s the percentiles that aren’t, and the percentiles can change from year to year (not by that much, but still).  It just so happens that the percentiles for quant go from 71% to 73% to 76% to 80% to 85% to 92% to 98% as you move from 45 to 46 to 47, etc, while the verbal percentile is 99% for 45 and up. It’s not that I suck at math, it’s just that, in comparison, 29% of GMAT takers are at my level or above.  Which is not that bad.  I’ve never professed to be great at math.  I certainly don’t love it (I only took basic math in college — not counting stats, finance, and economics–and only then because I had to.  I haven’t done calculus (again, excepting in finance) since high school).  And apparently most MBA applicants feel the same about English 😉  Now I just need to focus on amazing entrance essays, career progression, and volunteering to get me into my top schools.

 

I’ve been prepping for this test every day for the past 2.5 months (and that’s not even counting the 2.5 months I prepped at the beginning of the year), so all I can say is thank goodness I don’t need to retake it. Now to host a bonfire with all those prep books….

Omfg

That was my first reaction upon seeing the news that Steve Jobs had died.  It took me a few minutes to wrap my head around the idea. Even now it almost seems like a foreign concept.  Steve Jobs can’t be dead.  He was only 56.  Yes, he had pancreatic cancer, which is rarely treatable, even for the insanely rich, but he always seemed….I don’t know, immortal.  He had a magic touch when it came to visionary businesses.  First with Apple, then with Pixar, and then with Apple again (which had languished after he was forced out in the 1980s).  He was the man behind the Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.  He revolutionized the music, cell phone, and computer markets.  There aren’t many people who can say the same.

RIP Steve Jobs.  You may have been an egocentric megalomaniac with a short fuse, but you were passionate about your products, and a bonafide visionary to boot.  The tech world will never be the same without you.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple, Inc

PS:  It’s even more chilling that he held on until the day after Apple released the iPhone 4S.  He always considered the secretive unveilings to be of the utmost importance, and I guess he didn’t want anything detracting from his successor’s debut….