Saturday, July 27, 2013

Test driving the Tesla Model S

Today, we test drove a 2013 Tesla Model S sedan. I requested a test-drive after reading about the fantastic reports of Tesla performance, both in Consumer Reports and Car & Driver.

I made the request to test drive the Model S online and confirmed my appointment by phone.
When we arrived to the Santana Row showroom, we found a Tesla employee and checked in.

We were originally promised to drive the Tesla with the smaller battery pack, but it was being used for another test drive. So, we ended up driving the high-performance version.

When entering the car, I noticed significant differences in design and control systems (in comparison to my Audi Q5, Mini Cooper S, and other gas powered vehicles). There was no ignition switch and the interface for maps audio and all other normal controls were replaced by a touch screen display - a giant iPad of sorts. The salesman riding along explained how to take the car out of park and we proceeded to drive out of the Santana Row garage.



The car handled beautifully and accelerated effortlessly. There was not shifting of gears (electric cars don't need a geared transmission). The large display near the driver looked like a giant iPad with information on remaining range, suspension settings (car height), and moonroof.  It even has a built-in phone, which is used to download new software. You could browse the internet, listen to Pandora, watch videos, and check your email!

In order to save power, Tesla has an ability to activate regenerative braking whenever one takes the foot of the accelerator. It was an unusual sensation - whenever I took my foot off the accelerator pedal, the car slowed down (as if I were applying brakes).
The interior is quite nice and seems close to Audi-level of craftsmanship. Note, the giant, oversized iPad controls.


The car is very nice but a bit expensive at $75,000 + tax (for the smallest battery option).


Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: The Further Adventures of Three Musketeers (Oak Meadow Park)

Today, we saw the play "The Further Adventures of Three Musketeers" by the Los Gatos Shakespeare Company in Oak Meadow Park (on an outdoor stage).


The play is loosely based on Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers series of novels. We enjoyed the performance and Alex liked all of the sword-play.

It's all for one and one for all in this premiere production, written by Mark D. Pickens exclusively for Festival Theatre Ensemble. This original script is based on the much-loved characters from the novels of Alexandre Dumas. Join D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and a host of other cavalier-era characters as they attempt some impossible feats in the name of love. Swords, romance, and high adventure abound in this comic romp through 17th-century Paris, where the Musketeers cross paths, wits and swords with Cardinal Richelieu and his minions once more, while they court fine ladies and try to capture a dangerous spy. Polish up your boots, buckle on your swords and join us!

The following characters were in the play:

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

THE MUSKETEERS

D’Artagnan
James Tate
Athos
Ron Talbot
Porthos
Nick Mandracchia
Aramis
Kyle Fox

ALLIES

Brueys, owner of the Silver Bell Tavern
James Asea
Violette, a barmaid
Jennifer Grimaldo

THE COUNTESS’ HOUSEHOLD

Isabelle, Countess du Clermont L’Herault
Cristi Bocci
Oulette, handmaid to Isabelle
Cici Huber
Jacques, footman to Isabelle
Max Sorg

RICHELIEU’S RETINUE

Cardinal Richelieu
Joseph O’Loughlin
Count De Rochefort
Max Tachis
Captain Renard
Josh Parees
Corporal Cochon
Robin De Les Dernier
Private Mouton
Aaron Michael Parees
Private Vache
Stewart Robinson

CITIZENS OF PARIS

Duchess du Touraine
JC Elfson-Sales
Duc de Touraine
James Barker
Baroness de Crecy
Sarah Birdsall
Madame Ponfritte, confectioner
Alicia Barela
Edward Tredegar (Le Vipere)
Tim Garcia
Actress
Jennifer Grimaldo
Servant
Victoria Jones
Woman
Victoria Jones

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Biking the Wilder Ranch State Park

Today, we decided to go for mountain bike ride at the Wilder Ranch State Park, located near Santa Cruz/Davenport, California.

The Wilder Ranch State Park borders on the Pacific Ocean with sweeping views of the nearby cliffs.


There is not a lot of shade and it can get fairly hot in the afternoon sun. Most of the vegetation was dry or burned out.


We rode along the sandy trails with our friends on our trusty mountain bikes.


The trail along the shore was mostly flat with only a few short ascents and descents. The ride was quite short - only about an hour.


The beaches are quite nice but the surf appeared to be quite rough.




After we finished the short loop around Wilder Ranch State Park, we continued North to a trail that followed a nearby farm. It was a nice family bike ride.


Inna had a fun time navigating the narrow single tracks.




Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Antwerp, Belgium

Today, we took the train from Brussels to Antwerp, Belgium. We arrived at the Centraal Antwerp Train Station - an impressive looking building on the outskirts of Antwerp.


The Centraal Train Station is modern and very unique looking.


Once we stepped outside, we were in a modern-looking Belgian town of Antwerp. We immediately noticed the very wide streets (that are not very common).

Since Antwerp is known for a very thriving and lucrative diamond business, we expected to see a lot of diamond merchants. We were not disappointed -as we saw lots of diamond sellers right near the Centraal Train station.


As we walked down De Keyserlei Street, we ran into a statue of David Teniers, a famous Flemish artist who was born in Antwerp.


We continue walking until Meir Street, where a lot of high-end/luxury shops sell their wares.



There are many beautiful buildings on Meir Street in Antwerp.



The streets are full of people and street entertainers.


We saw a beautiful building that turned our to be an indoor shopping mall - Stadsfeestzaal.


We walked inside and were astounded at the ornate and richly decorated building.


There was a beautiful Laurent-Perrier Champagne bar  - shaped like a champagne glass - with drinks being served both above and below.



The whole look was very modern and unique.




As there was a nice smoothie bar - Zest Juice Bar, Inna and I decided to try some Belgian smoothies (as we needed to inject some healthy food into our European diet of pastries).


The smoothies were delicious.


After exploring the various shops and restaurants in the mall, we decided to have lunch on the second floor, at the "La Place" restaurant.



The sandwiches and salads at "La Place" looked delicious.The desserts looked quite delicious also. We had a hard time settling on just a few items.



I get hungry just looking back at these photos.


After a delicious lunch, we walked around the 2nd floor and ran into a gallery of paintings.


We saw some interesting paintings on the 2nd floor.



We exited the Stadsfeestzaal mall and walked by a nice bronze sculpture of a bird.


From here, we decided to check out Ruben's House.We purchased tickets and walked inside the beautifully decorated house of the famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.


Ruben;s residence is immaculately decorated with beautiful freezes, paintings, and sculptures.




Once we entered the house, we saw many beautiful paintings painted by Rubens and his helpers. Unlike many other painters, Rubens painted some of the paintings himself and others were painted by his helpers under his instruction.








There are beautiful gardens surrounding Ruben's House.



After visiting Ruben's House, we stopped by for a quick snack at "La Place Restaurant".


After our snack, we strolled to the Cathedral of Our Lady, a beautiful Gothic church in downtown Antwerp.


The cathedral has tall, beautiful spires and a large clock.


In front of the Cathedral is a statue of Peter Paul Rubens.


Inside the cathedral has tall, beautiful ceilings, though not as elaborate or ornate as the ones in Notre Dame (in Paris, France).


The cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows (though a bit plain).





The cathedral has also many famous religious paintings.



The cathedral also has beautiful, tastefully decorated, tall ceilings.



Notice he Fleur de Lys on he Cross


The ornately decorated front entrance reminds me a bit of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.


After touring the Cathedral, Inna decided to relax in nearby Grot Markt square, while I toured a nearby museum of printing.



The nearby Plantin-Moretus Museum of printing sounded intriguing and I decided to stop by for a look.

According to Wikipedia:
The Plantin-Moretus Museum is a museum in AntwerpBelgium honoring the famous printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, Plantin Press, at the Friday Market.
The Plantin-Moretus Museum possesses an exceptional collection of typographical material. Not only does it house the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world and complete sets of dies and matrices, it also has an extensive library, a richly decorated interior and the entire archives of the Plantin business, which were inscribed onUNESCO's Memory of the World Programme Register in 2001 in recognition of their historical significance.[1] 



One of the oldest original printing presses in the world is located here in the Plantin-Moretus museum.


A lot of the type was selected and made for printing in these printing presses below.


After I came back from the Plantin-Moretus museum, I found Inna sipping a nice cup of coffee in a nearby restaurant.


After relaxing a bit, we walked to the nearby river Scheldt, where a large castle was erected - "The Steen".




After touring The Steen (there was not much there to see), we decided to explore Antwerp's shopping market. We did not find anything particularly impressive, but we liked all the decorated bicycles.


We saw lots of interesting sculptures on houses on the street.


Inna stopped by in a few boutiques to try out some clothes but did not find anything particularly worthwhile.