Thursday, December 7, 2017

Visiting Philadelphia: On Learning and Traveling

It's probably been over 30 years since I've ever visited anywhere in east coast. I've been to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as a kid once in the 80's.  This time, I got to experience it for about three days.  I arrived in Philly late at night on Sunday and came back on Wednesday night.  This was generally for a business trip for my company as I was there to pick up an award we were nominated to win (our CEO had to attend a different trip).  The conference was Reimagine Education, a global competition designed to identify the most innovative, novel approaches to higher education.

We won the gold award for Best Educational App, but not the coveted Overall Award, which went to Institute for the Deaf for their learning system.  The food at the award ceremony was quite good.  The ceremony was held at the Franklin Institute building.

The gala dinner/ceremony was held at Franklin Institute
by the statue of Ben Franklin

The conference was quote informative and despite that the majority of the products and ideas were more directly related to higher education, we were probably nominated because our product (which focuses on coding for pre-readers) represents the early building blocks that prepares kids for an earlier love of education to ultimately result toward a movement toward higher education.  Some of the subjects were on AI and virtual reality, which was interesting (although nothing particularly that stood out).  Majority of the talks were about importance of prior knowledge, personalized learning, project-based learning, and peer-to-peer pedagogy.  Admittedly, though, this is probably more likely to be implemented based on the subject matter and the level of education of the peers.  The role of the teacher becomes fuzzier as a result, and there have been lots of talks about the use of AI as part of the teaching tool--this is mostly talked about because of occasional lack of teachers to engage with students one-on-one.

Now, for the photos!  While I was there, I got to walk around Philadelphia quite a bit.  An education experience, certainly.  I stayed at a Loew's Hotel near the Philly City Hall, which spreads out about 2 miles each way to different landmarks.  The city is quite beautiful.  To the east is the Independence Hall, after you pass by Chinatown.  To the northeast, after you pass by Franklin Institute (like a science museum for kids) and Rodin Museum, is the Museum of Art (aka. "Rocky Steps"), where the famous scene from "Rocky" was filmed.

I arrived in Philly around 11:30pm. I took the SEPTA train from 
the airport to Jefferson Station. Good to be careful at night.

View from the 23rd floor in the morning

View from the 23rd floor at night

City Hall

It got chilly. A tad rainy too.

Of course, I had to sketch it

Rocky Steps to the Museum of Art

George Washington Statue in the front of Rocky Steps

"Yoooo Adrian!"

"If I can change, you can change. Anyone can change!"

Philly Cheese Steak at a local deli. You eat it with ketchup around here.  

Chinatown in Philly

Old House of Rep (16 states) chamber at the Independence Hall

Old Senate chamber at the Independence Hall

The Liberty Bell!

Sketching at Philly Airport

Taking off for home!

Passing by Las Vegas.  Looks like an island at night

 Back to Los Angeles, CA.  Good to to be home! 

Philadelphia was great. Things I've noticed were:  People are a bit more rough, but genuine.  People cross the street before the walk sign ever turns on.  People smoke quite a bit.  People are used to slightly less personal space.  You put ketchup on your Cheese Steak Sandwich. 

I'm back at home as I write this.  I haven't traveled a lot  this year so far, at least outside of Southern California.  I did go to Santa Rosa to meet the Peanuts folks, and that was very memorable.  In couple of weeks, I'll be off to South Korea and India for vacation, so that's on my travel menu.  I'll be bringing my sketchbook as usual.

Traveling is great--makes you feel like a kid again.  You are outside of your routine, and now have to be creative to survive in the new environment, just like a kid.  You are spurred by curiosity and the love of exploration.  Occasionally, you'll try to hire parents (tour guides) to guide you, but unsupervised learning (and some failures) can be great (assuming you're not doing anything dangerous).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wax on, wax off: Visiting Madame Tussauds Hollywood Wax Museum

I visited the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Hollywood. Very impressive! Highly recommended.
You can  read my review of Madame Tussauds Hollywood on Yelp.

Above is my sketch of Madame Marie Tussaud (1761-1850). She was big back in the 18th Century, trained in the art of wax sculpting. She apparently was a housekeeper of Doctor Philippe Curtius (1741-1794), a physician who made wax body organs for educational studies (since using real human organs wasn't encouraged at the time).  She learned the trade from the said doctor, who also made portraits in wax.  The thing about wax is that it works very well with paint, and how the light hits on its translucency makes it look very lifelike, like human skin. A face would first be sculpted in clay, then a mold would be made with plaster. Afterwards, wax would be poured into the mold, and turned into a wax sculpture. 

Here is a wax sculpture of Madame Tussaud,
holding a wax sculpture.

For more information on her, here's a BBC documentary on the history of Madame Tussaud which was pretty interesting:

This one is from the Discovery Channel to talk about how her waxwork is done in the modern times:

So, this was the first time visiting this museum. I must admit I haven't really been to a wax museum in a long time.  The last good one I remember is the one from the 80's called Movieland Wax Museum which has closed down for a long time. To their credit, Movieland had amazing sets, even if the sculptures weren't as good as Tussauds. The wax sculpting techniques have improved quite a bit since then.  It is more lifelike now.

So, this was a good time to do a lot of photo-taking and study the sculptures themselves for my personal reference.  Good reference, especially, to use for my Zbrush sculpting projects. 

One thing to note about Madame Tussauds Wax Museum--it is most fun if you go with a significant other or with a group of friends.  Going alone just wouldn't do it--unless you really enjoy taking selfies.  The price of admission is around $30 but you can get a 50% discount from a coupon they pass around on the street on Hollywood.

Now, for the important stuff--Here are some photos I took at the Madame Tussauds Hollywood Museum. It's mostly pictures of myself, which my girlfriend took. I can't post any cutesy photos with her online since she is a University professor and students and faculties are always Big Brother.  
Yeah, I'm a fan.

This screenshot is actually when I was really on 
TV with Conan. It's the episode with Zoe Deschanel

West side! Gettin' drizzle with it.

Drinking with Ingrid Bergman

Making him an offer he can't refuse.

Me within a meme.

Silenced like a lamb

Alrighty then!

Dunno, Steve. I don't think the "nuking the fridge" is the way to go.

Check out my defense!

I worked on a Tony Hawk title for Xbox, so I had to do this.


We have different kinds of weapons, but both quite effective.

These are some close-up photos I took for reference for sculpting in Zbrush. This is good to have around if I'm going to create these guys in 3D in the future. It would've been great if they had one of Benedict Cumberbatch as I was sculpting him at one point--however, his statue is probably at the Madame Tussauds in London.

I ate his liver.... with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Make it so.

Ready for that escape..

I'll be back...again.

Just a fly in the ointment, Hans.

Give me a scotch. I'm starving.

That's it for now. I'll get to some Zbrush sculpting hopefully soon and make use of these photos.