Posts Tagged ‘los angeles’

Gogobot Tron Party!

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Another great event hosted by Gogobot – I mean, a Tron-themed beer pong and pool tournament?! Lol how do they come up with these things? It’s amazing. I’m sooo glad I got involved with this community.

Before I talk about the event, let me digress briefly. That night I realized something – that I can be super wacky/weird/fun when it comes to social events like this, but then all that personality gets lost when I write. So from now on I’m going to try to make an effort to be a little less boring and a little more crazy (in a good way). Oh, now that I think of it, I actually realized one more thing: people often get the wrong [early] impression of me. For example, one of my really good friends from college thought I was a sorority girl when he first met me. He was SO wrong. At this Gogobot party, one guy told me he thought my family’s rich (we just manage our money well) and another guy guessed that I shop at Hollister (never been actually).

Now on to the event:

Lyft was sponsoring rides to the event and I would have loved to have been able to try out their service, but I live over 40 miles away. Perhaps another time! I’d never been to Busby’s East before and I was glad that I could find parking easily. I found the party in the room with the pool tables and proceeded to put together my awesome glow-in-the-dark baseball cap. I just happened to get some glow sticks similar to puddle jumper toys as well, which I added as a propeller to my hat. Throw on some glasses and my nerd look was complete. Maybe I didn’t look all that Tron, but I sure did have fun!

wearing glow stick glasses and propeller hat at gogobot tron themed party

reflection in shiny tron helmet at gogobot tron themed party

Took a selfie with my friend in the reflection of a Tron costume helmet!

three super happy friends at gogobot tron themed party

I love how we all have our mouths open. 🙂

chatting at gogobot tron themed party

Of course I’m the one making a weird face. Photo credit: Steven Lam

playing pool at gogobot tron themed party

The pool tourney part of the night. Photo credit: Steven Lam

beer pong table at gogobot tron themed party

The beer pong side of things. Photo credit: Steven Lam

gogobot tron themed party costume contest prize figurine

The costumer contest winner got this fun toy. Photo credit: Steven Lam

happy gogobot tron party dj

Dancing to the awesome DJ, I love how he’s so happy too!!

paper lanterns hanging from ceiling in dance room at busby's east

I randomly looked up while dancing and saw lanterns!

jumping dancing selfie shot at gogobot tron themed party

I think this pic is awesome even if our faces are cut off. Look at the joyous smiles! We’re obviously having a blast.

hodded bowing guy dancing at gogobot tron themed party

I loved his dancing! So entertaining. He refused to stay still and show his face so I got what I could.

ladies dancing on stage at gogobot tron themed party busby's

Some of our Gogobot ladies got on stage to dance!

girls dancing on stage at Gogobot tron party from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

The Hotel Maya, a Doubletree by Hilton review

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, reviews,Tags: , , , , ,

Panda and I get a chance to stay at a bunch of different hotels throughout the year, so I thought I’d share some of the experiences a bit more thoroughly than I could in a travel review site. I’ve broken it down into a few sections: Location (including parking info & nearby businesses), Rooms (including wifi info & toiletries), Service (including check in/out times & front desk service), and Amenities (including breakfast info & pool/gym details). Finally, I sum up with a Pros & Cons comparison if you’re short on time. Click on any of those to jump straight to the section you want!

sign for the hotel maya a doubletree by hilton in long beach

entrance of the hotel maya a doubletree by hilton in long beach


hotel maya parking boxThe Hotel Maya is down in Long Beach, facing part of the harbor and not too far from the Queen Mary (you’ll hear the foghorn sound a few times throughout the day). It is being run as a Doubletree, so you can expect the same services and amenities (such as complimentary cookies). The location can be a little confusing to get to since the roads are long and windy and as soon as you cross the Queens Way bridge, you exit on the right and it looks like you’re getting onto a freeway but then you get right off. From there, you do a complete 180 and basically backtrack along your route on the side road, passing by a Residence Inn and curving around underneath the bridge to get over to the hotel. If you’re like me and missed the exit, then you end up reaching the end of the bridge and having to pull a u-turn and loop around from the opposite direction. Confused yet? Yeah, it can be a bit challenging reaching the hotel the first time but take a look at the maps I linked for you to see what I’m talking about. There aren’t really many businesses nearby, so you’ll probably have to drive back across the Queens Way bridge to access the more densely-packed area where there are restaurants and bars and stores.

giant brown rotating door at entrance of hotel mayaWhen you arrive, you will get a ticket from the parking machine that will let you in. If you’re in the lot just dropping off someone, don’t worry – you have a grace period of (I believe) 20 minutes that you can stay without being charged. If you’re staying as a guest, you will have to pay the fee of $19 per night. You’ll just use your room key as the entry and exit card whenever you want to drive out somewhere. When you enter, you’ll find this giant door, which you push on the left side to enter. It will rotate to open like some sort of secret passageway entrance. Or, you can opt for the “normal” door on the left side, which is that glass panel with the metal bar handle. The front desk is just to the left once you enter. If you were to go straight up the ramp in front of you, you’d find the restaurant up the stairs on the right and some meeting rooms in the back. From the front desk, off to the left is the open computer area, couches, and more meeting space.


hotel maya room high ceilingsThe hotel actually consists of multiple small buildings clustered together. It feels rather like an apartment complex and there are only a few rooms per floor. Each room has its own little balcony or porch, with chairs and a small table so you can sit and enjoy the weather and/or view (if you have one). If you happen to get a top floor room, it will likely have very high ceilings as shown. Overall the feel is very airy and spacious, which is appropriate for being by the ocean. The beds are typical ones, not too firm or soft and the bedding might be a bit light if you’re sensitive to the cold like me. We had to use the heater at night and it is an older type that is mounted in the window, so it rattles a bit and isn’t the quietest thing.

two yellow porch chairs and a wooden table on porch of room at hotel mayaYou’ll get to enjoy free wifi, yay! To ensure a lot of light can enter the room, the entire window area also houses glass sliding doors that lead to the porch. The porch doesn’t have railing like a fence, but instead is composed of something like plexiglass so you can enjoy the best possible view from the porch, with nothing obstructing the way. It’s also nice for helping to block some of the cool ocean breeze you might get as you sit outside. I really enjoyed the furnishings in our room, from the wicker seat by the mirror that was great for stacking our stuff on to the glass top desk by the porch to the nice sturdy coffee table next to the couch. Check out these photos of the room – you can click on them to enlarge.

view of hotel maya room from doorway

view of hotel maya room from inside

hotel maya bathroomIn the restroom you’ll find Crabtree & Evelyn toiletry products in Citron Honey & Coriander. The wallpaper is Mayan-themed and the floor and shower area have a nice marble. I did not like that the toilet paper holder was on the wall behind the toilet, so you had to reach back blindly or twist to try to reach it. I did like the sink, which had a nice water flow and a cool rectangular design. There are bars beneath the sink so you can keep hand and face towels within each reach, but the small little metal nub on the wall for hanging towels could have been bigger. If you didn’t place the towel just right, it could easily slide right off.


hotel maya event spaceCheck-in time is at 3 PM and checkout time is at 12 PM, but of course this is always negotiable if you ask and are courteous to the staff. The hotel is a non-smoking property, so don’t expect to find ashtrays or get a smoking room. I found the staff to always be helpful, whether we needed some disposable utensils or wanted an extra cookie. They even held a bake sale while I was there, raising funds for the Ronald McDonald House. You could easily hold events here as well, ranging from weddings to business conferences. They offer a nice outdoor area pictured there, which was set up for various events during my stay. They also have some large rooms you can use for meetings, presentations, and the like.


hotel maya poolAs you’d expect, the Hotel Maya has a pool (complete with lovely “floating” cabanas) and hot tub, as well as a variety of seating options to enjoy the sun, the pool, the harbor, or just the air. There is a gym with giant glass windows just across from the lobby area – a good place to get drinking water if you have some bottles you want to fill up. There is a small business center in the hallway region off to the side of the front desk, with two computers for you to use if you need to hop online or print something. The little snack shop on the side of the front desk offers not only food like a s’mores kit, but clothing and magnets to remember your visit to Long Beach by. You can also use the microwave there to heat up any food that might need microwaving to eat.

hotel maya hot breakfastA free continental breakfast is available in the in-house restaurant (Fuego Restaurant) to Hilton Gold members and above. One of my mornings, I was told the hot buffet was available to me as well, but I’m not sure if that’s usually the case or if you have to pay an additional fee. Anyone is welcome to purchase meals there throughout their working hours. They offer a great view of the harbor. Just outside and down the stairs, you’ll find the Aquabus, which only runs in summer months. It takes you across the harbor to the more main area of Long Beach, where you can go to the convention center, check out a park, or grab some food. There’s also a bus you can catch from the front of the hotel area, which can take you into town as well.

There are also a ton of great spaces to enjoy that make this property feel somewhat like its own little town. You can stroll along the harbor, play tennis or beach volleyball or bocce ball, hang out in a variety of cabanas and lawn chairs, enjoy firepits and the small “beach” that they built, and so much more. Check out my gallery of pictures below for even more looks at what the Hotel Maya has to offer!

Pros: cool vibe, great views, resort-like property, tons of windows to enjoy the most sunlight, good food, great furnishings, very relaxing

Cons: location slightly out of the way for most activities, paid parking, small inconveniences in restroom, loud air conditioning unit

Overall? I’d totally stay here again whenever I’m looking for a chill atmosphere and some relaxation – as long as I have a car I can use at night. I mean, I wouldn’t mind trying Fuego for dinner but I doubt it’s in the price range I prefer.

365great Day 60: the Getty

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learn more about 365great here.

365great challenge day 60: the gettyThe Getty sits perched atop a hill, overlooking a gorgeous landscape. If you know what you’re, looking for, you can see everything from downtown LA and UCLA in one direction to the ocean in the other direction. But its beauty lies not only in its view – the museum and grounds are marvelous too. The Getty is LEED certified and beautifully designed. Skylights, white stones, water fountains, and cool wood paneling all add to the serene and bright atmosphere. You get to enjoy picturesque scenes inside and outside, no matter where you wander. There are rotating exhibits that change every few months, so each visit can be a fresh look at things. The garden and lawn area is an excellent place to hang out, relax, and soak in the sunny days. Whether you’re into art, history, architecture, gardening, views, or nature, there’s something there for you. It’s worth a visit no matter what your interests! A place that caters to such a range of tastes is pretty unique and very great.

Gogobot Spring Break Bus Party

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Been away all day! I had a grand old time at Gogobot West LA’s Spring Break Bus Party extravaganza. Check out what we did!

across the street from lemonade cafeteria in venice

We met up at 11 to start the day at Lemonade in Venice.

girl hugging giant teddy bear wearing gogobot tshirt

Gogobear always comes along for the fun!

lemonade sign inside back room

We went inside right as they opened and took over the back room.

bag of gogobot goodies with leggings, snap-on wrist band, and friendship bracelet

We each got a little gift! The girls got leggings, those snap-on wristbands that everyone loved as a kid, and a friendship bracelet. The guys got fun ties and bowties.

lemonade cafeteria selection of sides

Time to eat! We got a choice of about 20 different sides. I got the yummy soba on the right!

lemonade cafeteria meal with one side of soba noodles, one curry chicken entree, and a watermelon sage lemonade

It was a tough choice, but this is what I ended up with (though I made two friends and the three of us swapped dishes to try more variety.)

girl dressed in odd assortment of thrift shop style clothing

Time to gear up with the theme of thrift shop wear! The little gifts they gave us came in quite handy and I used all three.

large shaggy dog with ponytail

After lunch, there was time to stroll around Venice and we came across this shaggy dog.

fuzzy leaf

By 1:15, it was time to meet up for our bus tour! The tree we were waiting by had these fun fuzzy leaves.

rastabus colorful la day tour bus

Our ride, the Rastabus, has arrived! Let the party begin. 🙂

Tons of random fun weird costumes. Love it! Nearly ready to load the bus...

Tons of random fun weird costumes. Love it! Nearly ready to load the bus…

settling in to colorful rastabus for day tour

Bright, colorful, and pumping with music! Now this is a cool party bus!

two people wearing sunglasses with moustaches

I meet a new friend and he shares his crazy fun ‘stache glasses with me. 🙂

people sitting on stairs in front of california science center

We arrive at the California Science Center and people stare as oddly-dressed people come piling out of this festive bus.

collage of attempts at capturing a jumping shot on stairs of california science center

Whee, I have some fun with a jumping shot on the stairs before we head in!

california science center entrance with golden globes hanging from ceiling

What a pretty entrance to this place.

standing on escalator looking down towards bottom floor

This is my first time here! We all take the escalators up to the line to view the Endeavour.

posing in front of endeavour space shuttle at california science center

We go admire the Endeavour space shuttle, which only recently made its home here at the California Science Center.

tiles underneath the endeavour space shuttle

The bottom/back of the shuttle is composed of tons of little tiles.

goodyear blimp as seen from california science center

As we head out, the Good Year blimp makes an appearance.

holographic image of eye with earth as iris on wall of california science center

There’s a cool section of the wall that is holographic and the images “move” as you walk by.

gogobot pros waiting to board rastabus at california science center

Back to the Rastabus for our next adventure!

view of downtown los angeles from loft in la brewery district

Next stop, the LA Brewery Art Walk! We checked out a loft with a nice view of downtown LA (which, coincidentally, is where some of my friends live).

altervision 3d blacklight experience exhibit at la brewery art walk

I got caught up in conversations at the loft until it was nearly time to go, but managed to join two others in a quick visit to this Altervision 3D Blacklight Experience!

picture inside altervision 3d exhibit at la brewery art walk

I try to take a selfie inside but it’s hard to see! Now only is it dark, but I’ve got on 3D glasses and it’s disorienting.

neon butterflies inside altervision 3d experience at la brewery art walk

Just some of the amazing artwork inside. They had a bunch of cool rooms to explore!

chocolate soft serve ice cream one with crooked swirl

Before getting back on the bus, I am treated to a wonderfully lopsided ice cream cone.

guy hugging giant teddy bear at griffith observatory while sitting on fence

And our last stop, Griffith Observatory, where we chilled and enjoyed the scenery. Gogobear gets some love too.

After this, my phone died! We had some fun checking out the view, then headed back to our original meeting point and most people went their own ways. A few of us decided to meet up for dinner and spent some extra time together before parting ways. I got back just before 11 pm, after a very full day of activities! Good times. 🙂

Sudden hail

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,

Weather’s been rather chilly in the east, with bits of snow trying to stick on the ground in the DC area. Reminds me of the day it randomly hailed for just a few seconds in LA.

hail in socal from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

Red-lored Angelenos

laelene Posted in video blog,Tags: , , , ,

The legend of the wild parrots in the Arcadia/San Marino/Pasadena area of Los Angeles is a pretty loud (and squeaky) one! Apparently they’re red-lored parrots and they usually fly in large groups, or at least pairs, squawking to each other the whole time. Talk about an alarm you can’t shut off!

flock of parrots squawking from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

pair of parrots flying from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

Swerving madness

laelene Posted in photo blog, video blog,Tags: , , , ,

Today while driving to Green Festival LA, I got in an accident.  A car was merging into my lane and I was watching it, letting off my gas so it could get in.  Suddenly, the car behind it decided to also merge into my lane, but then I guess the first car had braked, so it had to swerve and cut in front of me, which caused me to swerve to avoid it.  I managed to narrowly miss it, only to roll off the shoulder into the mud and slide right into the guardrail.  The one good thing today?  Bruins beat Trojans 38-28.  😀

chp officer who arrived at the scene stepping away after talking to some firefighters

First an ambulance stopped to check on us, then a tow truck pulled over but it wasn’t with my insurance, then this CHP officer came along, and then the firetruck pulled over briefly.

A total of three or four CHP vehicles stopped at one point or another, and I had to explain what happened over and over as each batch came. Three of them asked if I wanted to file a report and by the third, I had one thing clarified: the only thing filing a report would do is confirm that I am to blame for hitting the guardrail. Ok seriously, why would I file a report so you can charge me for the guardrail?! So random.

Oh, and while talking to the ambulance ladies, we happened to witness another crash right in front of us as a car got rear-ended. Eventually all the law enforcement personnel migrated between our two sites and finally figured out that we were two separate incidents.

front left of car smashed into guardrail at side of highway

Just as I was reacting that I might not hit the car in front of me, I realized I was hurtling towards the guardrail and the mud was too slippery to stop in. In retrospect I should have stayed on the road more or maybe even swerved again (though that could have caused me to spin out), but alas I hit. Boom.

front left car wheel and bumper smashed into guardrail

Oh my poor car! One of my first reactions was relief that the airbags didn’t deploy. That must mean I had slowed down enough that the impact wasn’t as bad. When I went to open my door, it got a bit stuck and creaked (see video).

creaking car door from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

car pulled away from guardrail awaiting tow

The AAA tow guy couldn’t get my car to start without some serious shaking and coughing from my poor Corolla, so he called in a flatbed and pulled it away from the guardrail in the mean time.

damaged car being placed on tow truck

And there she goes, getting atop the flatbed for the ride to the tow yard.

the damage to the front left part of the car

The tow guy thought the axle might be broken – yikes! We’ll see what the ultimate verdict is.

Hollywood sunset

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , ,
view of sunset from griffith observatory with hollywood sign just visible on the right

From Griffith Observatory, you get a great view of sunset. On the right you can just make out the Hollywood sign.

Quality Street

laelene Posted in photo blog,Tags: , , , , ,

I was walking by Rocket Fizz in Westwood one day when I noticed a gigantic box of Quality Street sitting in the window. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to find some of my favorite candies from England available in the US! When I saw the price, I was pretty shocked, but the next time I was there I got one because it made me too happy to see them (and get to eat them).

purple tin octagonal box of assorted quality street chocolates by nestle

Oh Quality Street, how I love to snack on you. Who can resist your vibrant colors, variety, and delicious chocolate morsels?

A bright night sky

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,

If you live in a city, you’re probably used to not experiencing full darkness after nightfall.  Lights from stores, streetlamps, and nearby apartments are constantly glowing all through the dark hours.  You may even think that it’s normal to barely be able to make out any stars.  It’s certainly the case in Los Angeles, where I first truly noticed this phenomenon.

I remember my first year at UCLA, when I would be walking around campus at night marveling at the sky glowing a strange milky white or orange.  I thought back to the places I had lived on the east coast and Midwest and all I could remember was darkness lit by stars, the moon, and some fireflies.  But here in the middle of Los Angeles, I saw none of that.  The marine would roll in some days and completely obscure the sky.  Other days, the sky would look like it was stuck in a perpetual state of dusk.

For awhile I wondered if I just didn’t remember how the sky looked at night in those other places.  Or maybe LA was just weird and didn’t get a “proper” night sky.  Then I went back to Beijing for the first time in years and found the same thing.  So many lights around you that you never really see past them, into the dark expanse of the universe.  One of my aunts was actually amazed when she came to visit us and you could actually see the stars at night.  Do city people live out their lives hardly ever seeing a truly dark night sky?

The world has changed so much as humans took over.  I can imagine the immense darkness that used to blanket the earth at night.  You can still find that in remote areas, but so much of mankind has gotten used to artificial lighting almost all day long.  That kind of darkness can be lonely, scary even.  I got a reminder of that tonight as I was working on my computer – before I knew it, the sun had set and I was cocooned in a dark house with just the eerie glow of my computer.  When I looked up, I felt small and isolated.  Without the light from my laptop, I would be engulfed by the night, and that felt so odd!

While I really appreciate artificial lighting, sometimes I wish it was easier to look up at the sky and see a vast landscape of stars.  Maybe if we were more used to darkness, it wouldn’t be so scary.

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