Because Sunshine is Free…

Greetings!

My sincerest apologies for the recent lack of content- I was traveling over spring break and then ended up with strep throat (that I’m almost sure I picked up from breathing that recycled airplane air). The good news is that I’m back and that the weather here in Philly is absolutely gorgeous. This means that I get to suggest two of my favorite activities in the world that are 100% free and guaranteed to make you feel more culturally stimulated and more connected to the city.

1) Wander. Between the biting cold and vicious winds, being outside for more than 45 seconds can be physically painful during the winter (well, maybe not so much this winter, but you know what I mean). Now that the sun is shining and things have begun to bloom, there’s no better time to explore Philadelphia. Take the subway to a stop you’ve never been to before (read as: take a subway South to somewhere you’ve never been before) and see what you find. Some of my favorite spots in town are ones that I’ve encountered by chance, whether they’re coffee shops, restaurants, or thrift stores. Tackle a different neighborhood every time- Old City (will never be prettier than it is during the Spring), South Philly (is more than just South Street), Rittenhouse Square etc. Whatever you’ve been “meaning to check out” but haven’t gotten around to- get to it now! (The best part about this is that you can grab a friend, a group, or just your iPod, and don’t need to worry about looking weird one way or the other).

2) Wissahickon Park. Despite my deep love for the city, I’m often torn by my comparable love for the outdoors. Wissahickon Park is a 1,800-acre wooded gorge that features excellent running trails, spots for grilling, a creek (yes, you can play in it), a path (for the romantic walkers among us), and a bunch of really old statues and buildings hidden throughout it. I’ve been going to Wissahickon to trail run (and rock climb, and bike ride) with my Dad since I was a wee child, and it’s easily one of my favorite places in the area. Nowhere else do I feel so encompassed by nature, and so disconnected from the outside world. Added bonus: there are highway/road bridges that run over certain parts so even though you get a nice juxtaposition of gratified infrastructure to accompany the trees, that’s pretty much the only “outside world” interference that you’ll get. I enter my favorite trails in Manayunk, which is an easy bus ride away from campus.

The moral of the story is that sunshine is free, and there’s nothing us college kids love more than free stuff, so take advantage of it.

Note: (If exploring isn’t your thing, never fear, I’ll have a specific, destination-oriented PEX activity for you later this weekend).

The Zoo!

I drive by the zoo every single time my parents drive me back to school from the burbs (which happens at least once a month because I’m a huge stinkin’ mama’s girl and can’t say no to her pleas for me to come visit for very long). Recently, instead of just nodding at the pretty  animal-themed columns holding up the bridge, I actually started registering that they were signaling the presence of a place I hadn’t been in years.

My freshman class took a biology trip to the Philadelphia Zoo in high school, and since then I haven’t managed to make it back. Monday, 2/20, I broke my streak, sucked it up and paid the $14 (a $4 discount for their off-season special) fee to visit some animals. Here’s how it went;

Even though it was a nice day (especially for February), only about half of the animals were on display. This is understandable for the outdoor exhibits (I GUESS putting the animals native to Africa like elephants and giraffes inside COULD be a smart idea, even if it made my experience a little anticlimactic) but why such a large portion of the indoor displays were empty was baffling to me. A snake or a monkey inside a cage, inside a temperature-regulated building shouldn’t have to go elsewhere just because it’s winter, right? Well, wrong.

Despite my disappointment in not being able to see some of my favorite animals, there were still some great highlights.

-The Red Panda, which I was tempted to take home and snuggle with.

-The Gorilla, who took a few minutes to size up the crowd of children with their faces pressed against the glass of his playroom before running to the glass and punching it with both fists and then flying sideways at the last minute. Gorillas are cool because of how graceful they are despite their enormity, but even more impressive because of their tangible awareness and intellect.

-The Galapagos Tortoises which are only exciting for me, because unless you catch them having sex they’re pretty much stationary. (Anything Galapagos related has thrilled me since my trip there, which interestingly also happened during my freshman year of high school).

-The female leopard. Though all of the big cats were obviously spectacular, every time my friends and I play the “if you were an animal, what would you be” game (which is pretty often) the one that I consistently (and that is most frequently assigned to me) is a female leopard, so it was nice to see one in person. Fierce.

Though it was nice not to have to put up with huge crowds, the zoo is ironically one of my favorite places to people watch (I find children to be endlessly amusing) so it turned out not to be a huge benefit.

To conclude, the zoo is awesome. I definitely recommend that you check it out, but that if at all possible you wait a few months until you’re getting more bang for your buck ($4 more for twice the animals isn’t a bad deal).

P.S., don’t drive- parking is insanely expensive and especially if you’re going when it’s more crowded, it’ll be more trouble than it’s worth.

Hello, Again!

This is how excited you should be about PEX

Hey there Temple-

For those of you who are new to our lovely GenEd blog, I’m Tori, a sophomore Journalism and Spanish major. I’m 5’8″, blonde, enjoy long walks around the city and Kurt Vonnegut novels.

This summer I was a counselor at a leadership and volunteerism training camp for military kids, demolished a room with a hammer for Habitat for Humanity, taught myself to play the piano (poorly), learned to tie dye (like a pro), and jumped off a 30 foot cliff into water. I also got to visit some awesome spots around Philly as a part of my job as a correspondent for PEX.

PEX = Philadelphia Experience –> booklet of discounted activities around the city

PEX correspondents (me!) = the ones who tells you which ones are cool and which ones you can skip

You = student living in Philadelphia with a booklet of discounted activities around the city –> use your passport.

Ready for a great semester of adventures? I sure am.

Orientation 2011: The Rundown

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on two General Education orientation sessions, packed full of information that I certainly didn’t retain from my own orientation, and that everyone would probably appreciate having repeated in text-form.

Orientations are rough. It’s hours and hours of overwhelming material that you have to try to retain without any context on why it will be crucially important to you later on, all while trying to make eye contact with the hottie across the aisle and sneak in enough jokes under your breath to attain your real goal- making new friends.

This being said, Dr. Phillips did a wonderful job of keeping the incoming students entertained by combining humor and clear, engaging speech to get across everything you need to know about GenEd. In the event that you were dozing off (or you’re an upper class-man looking for a refresher)- here’s the nitty gritty of what you missed.

1. 11 required courses

2. Foundation Courses (to make sure you become a functional adult); Analytical Reading & Writing, Mosaics, 1 & 2 (called that because it’s the class that can’t decide if it’s a history, philosophy or English class- in a good way), and Quantitative Literacy (math.)

3. Breadth Courses; (to make sure you become a cultured adult who can converse at dinner parties); Arts, Human Behavior, Race & Diversity, World Society, U.S. Society

4. How to get out of required courses: Placement test results, AP scores, I.B. scores, study abroad (knocks out World Society requirement)

5. You have to take these classes, so have a good attitude about it. The opportunity to extend yourself beyond your major or your immediate interests is an integral part of the college experience, and a huge contributing factor to what will shape who you become over the course of your undergraduate experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to play a little bit, and find classes that excite you (there are some really cool ones, I assure you).

*Note: I took video with my handy dandy flip video but the editing process has been a nightmare so far. Hopefully I will have a lovely and entertaining video up soon, but this is to wet your GenEd Orientation Whistle

Philadelphia Art Museum, 1

Today, one of my best friends and I took a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum where it was “pay as much as you want first Sunday of the month” (for my fellow college students, read as free first Sunday of the month). Since she’s a member, we got the treat of seeing the Capucci exhibit that is currently on display for free as well, while for regular visitors admission costs around $15 depending on age and student-status. I plan to devote an entire post to both the Capucci exhibit and another one to the health posters exhibit that we checked out, but for now I’ll share some of my favorite pieces that we saw throughout the day (most of them were from the modern galleries, since my girl and I are both devotees of all that is contemporary).

Fun fact: while membership for normal grown-ups is $70 per year, students get it for $40, which gets you into the museum, all special exhibitions, and “art after 5″ every Friday night for free for 52 weeks.

What are your favorite types of art? Let me know and I’ll check out those exhibits next time I hit up the museum (which should be within the next month or so).

Da Vinci

The Da Vinci exhibit at the Franklin Institute was outrageously awesome. It had everything from games to models of his studio, to recreations of some of his most famous inventions. Below are my top five favorite things I saw.

Mechanical lion

–>Also known as the best way to get flowers EVER. This was designed to dispense a bunch of white lilies to some French Prince as a gift. It’s essentially the trojan horse but instead o an army coming out the middle, flowers are dispensed out of the mouth. And it’s a lion.

Swinging  Bridge

–> This wasn’t that mechanically impressive, or particularly practical, but it reminded me of the moving staircases from Harry Potter and, as a long-time nerd, I was immediately endeared to it.
Flying Machine

–> We’ve all seen the sketches, but to see a full-sized model with a dummy in the seat and everything truly added a new dimension to my appreciation of Da Vinci’s ingenuity.
Multi- cannon gunship

—> Essentially a circle with cannons all around it that spins around and allows for maximum efficiency by constantly firing while simultaneously allowing time to re-load the other cannons.

Build your own bridge aka “adopt-a-child”

—> I love to play, so getting the opportunity to mess around with some Lincoln logs type things and make a Da Vinci style bridge was awesome enough. The fact that we met a 10-year-old boy who impressed us with his incredible bridge building skills and charm put the icing on the cake of an already hilarious day. It was a mixture between babysitting and getting hit on and it was completely adorable. Note: we are not sexual predators, I just sound creepy when I describe things.

Jew Cred: The List

This is why I’m…Jewish.

Me, bein' Jewish

1. I grew up on the Main Line,

2. I work at the Rosen Hillel on campus,

3. My grandfather was a cantor,

4. My uncle is a rabbi,

5. My mother was raised orthodox,

6. My facebook husband insists that he will only marry me in real life if our phantom babies are Jewish,

7. My favorite place to eat is a Jewish deli in Merion,

8. If I see a penny, I will always pick it up. Even in the middle of the street,

9. My best friend is on the board of her campus Hillel, and my other best friend is currently in Israel for a gap year. I know this doesn’t actually make me more Jewish, but I’m a firm believer in your environment rubbing off on you. So there.

10. I’m going on Birthright next year.

And now we see, children, that I am the most Jewish shiksa that has ever lived.

Academy of Natural Sciences: What You Need To Know

1. Check the weather.

2. There’s a coatroom, so you don’t need to worry about “dressing light” and then carrying excessive amounts of clothing around with you.

3. This is an educational museum, geared towards children. This means that

  • a. The signs are very clearly written
  • b. There are children and their parents everywhere. If you aren’t in the mood to be around small hilarious humans, save this for a different day. If, however, you’re feeling up to the challenge of co-existing with families having wholesome fun, Saturday morning is as good a time as any.
  • c. The toilets and sinks are shorter.

    Me, having too much fun with a dinosaur.

4. Bring a snack and water. Avoid the cafeteria at all costs. Large numbers of hungry children…enough said.

5. Geek out. This is a place to embrace your curiosity, so bring a friend or two and your camera, and get in the mindset of being absolutely fascinated by stuffed animals…literally.

Erin, bonding with a kodiak bear

6. Read the signs; there are some priceless gems to be found. (I’ll post some of my favorites with photos soon).

7. Treat it like a zoo, where everything is a part of the entertainment, including the wee ones. One of my favorite parts of the day was watching parents interact with their kids.

Here we see a 5 year old interacting with the "walk like a crocodile" game on the second floor of the dinosaur exhibit...

Hi, I’m Tori.

A little about me…
* I enjoy early mornings and late nights but I think afternoons should just be used for napping.

Me. Summer '09.appin

* I’m a snuggler, a moderate health nut, an anglophile,  a
coffee addict and an adrenaline junkie.
* My wrists are my favorite part of my body.
* I’m 5’8’’ and still growing. I dream of wearing heels in
public.
* I’m analytical, sarcastic and witty but extremely loyal
once  I love you.
* I believe that love is a choice.
* I speak Spanish. Soon I will speak French.
* My mom was raised orthodox Jewish.
* My dad was a radio personality in the 80s.
* My sister is 33, married, and studying to be a pastry chef in NYC.

Now, for some explanation…
In addition to being a hardcore Jew way back in the day, my mother runs a nonprofit called the Philadelphia Songwriters Project, which she started when I was 8 or 9. Thanks to her, I’ve grown up around musicians and concerts, playing stage manager for hermonthly showcases since the beginning. I’ve attended events with her for years, ranging from Philly Folk Fest to the Grammys and (most recently) the ASCAP conference. I spent my 18th birthday writing for the official EXPO blog, covering panels that featured the likes of Quincy Jones and John Mayer. This particular experience made me discover my love of writing in a form that was more practical than the “angst-y poetry” bit that I had grown accustomed to during my formative years.
My goal for this blog is to share with all of you the amazing experiences to be had in Philadelphia, with accompanying photos and witty commentary, such that either you feel like you were there, or just so that you feel something. And who knows, If all goes well that something might just make you get off the couch and go see for yourself.
Namasté,
-Tori
*Disclaimer: I’ve never used wordpress before, and though I’m doing my best, the formatting might look a little funky for the first couple of posts.