This past weekend was "Biscotti Weekend" - my opportunity to spend time with my middle nephew while his Mommy is busy baking biscotti and his Tama is busy working. This year the weather cooperated , and I made it to Princeton in time to pick D up from school.
The last couple of years I've had a house improvement project to do while I was there - shelves in the downstairs bathroom, new shower curtain rod. This year there wasn't anything they needed done. So, I came up with a project.
Before I headed down I prepared the pieces for a serving tray (think breakfast in bed). This was my first attempt at through tenons and they came out fairly nice (if I do say so myself). I took the pieces, glue, clamps, finish and paints for the bottom with me so D and I could finish it together.
We sanded the parts - that's what he's busy doing here. Next came the glue - which he applied with great care, and then clamps. As it turns out the optimum clamping strength is that which is produced by a 4 year-old. While the glue dried I pulled out the paints and D painted a picture on the bottom of the tray. I added a couple of coats of shellace to the frame, and then once all was dry we tacked the bottom in place in the rabbets I'd cut for that purpose.
He was very excited to show off the results of our efforts to his Moms, and we had wonderful conversations while we worked.
During the rest of the weekend we played games (he's much better at Tiddly Winks than I am - guess I'll have to practice), read books (and I had my book reading technique critiqued), and sang. We finished off with a viewing of the movie "Monsters, Inc" before I headed home.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
This past weekend was "Biscotti Weekend" - my opportunity to spend time with my middle nephew while his Mommy is busy baking biscotti and his Tama is busy working. This year the weather cooperated , and I made it to Princeton in time to pick D up from school.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Originally uploaded by KSCChef.
After some coaxing from Brommer I decided to join in on the KSC Waquoit Bay kayak expedition. I originally thought I'd do it as a day trip, but Advil convinced me that I should head down Friday night to ensure a full day of yaking fun on Saturday.
This was my first kayak trip requiring gear transportation. After cleaning out REI I loaded up my gear - only to discover that the large dry bag didn't fit in the boat. After repacking the car was loaded, the boat was loaded, the first panic attack (did I have enough food, too much food, would I be able to manuever the kayak with the extra weight ...) was calmed and I set off. My departure was later than originally planned but it looked like I could still make the 7PM scheduled put in. After stops at the grocery store to stock up on water, and the local pizza joint for dinner food I hit the highway and quickly came to a halt. The delayed departure put me on 128 during rush hour. Aaargh - now I started to worry that I wasn't going to make the scheduled departure. Traffic continued heavy in pockets until I got over the Sagamore Bridge. As I wended my way toward Waquoit Bay the clock continued to tick off the minutes. When it got to 6:30 I started to get anxious, at 6:45 I decided that I needed to contact Brommer. A call to the number on his email with directions connected me with Mary. Luckily Mary was able to provide me with his cell number. Called the cell - got his voice mail. Hit the road again after a pit stop. Arrived Edwards Boat Yard at 6:58pm. Street name doesn't match email. Hhm, am I in the correct place. Don't see any other KSCers. Did a short recon - determined this has to be the right place. Called Brommer again - voice mail again. Finally ask a man putting in a power boat, who reassures me that this is the place, and invites us to join EMS for a clinic on Saturday.
At this point I relax, mostly, find a spot in the parking lot and decide to eat dinner. Partway through my salad a car with kayaks on top pulls in - it's Slush and Steve. Another level of relaxation is achieved. And just then my cell phone rings - it's Skibody calling from Brommer's truck. They've gotten a later start than planned and at that point are 45 minutes away - preceeded by Fritz. Slush and Steve head off for food and a final pit stop in a real bathroom. Rain begins to fall while they're gone. They return followed shortly by Fritz, Brommer and Skibody, and Goat in quick succession.
We head down to the put in, unload boats from cars, and load our gear into the boats. Luckily the rain has ended. I feed Fritz the sub I'd picked up - which disappears quite quickly. Brommer provided each of us with a glow light for the back of our PFDs these prove quite useful as we head toward the island. It's a cloudy night which makes it hard to see each other as we spread out on the water. The Slush, Skibody Steve and I put in with help from Goat and Brommer. We huddle up together to wait for the rest of the crew. We wait, drift, wait some more. After a fairly lengthy wait we were off. Bromer took the lead with his high powered head lamp. The paddle was fairly easy - surprising to me given the amount of extra weight in my boat. I had a nice chat with Goat as we headed up the Seapit River. As we rounded the point of Washburn Island we hit a very shallow section requiring a fairly wide swing around the north end of the island. I caught up with Brommer who, minus his headlamp which had run out of juice, was trying to determine navigation around the sandbar which because it was low tide was quite extensive. He set off to find a navigable route, while I held back to wait for the result. Slush and Steve caught up and after unbeaching ourselves we follow in his wake with Slush hugging the edge of the sandbar.
Once around the sandbar we began the task of locating our campsites - in the dark. The signage was definitely not designed for late night arrivals. With some assistance from other campers we finally located our site - or at least what we thought was our site. In day light it was revealed that we were a good 10 yards or so closer to the water than our actual site. Upon arrival we set about the task of unpacking boats and setting up camp. My tent setup required the able assistance of Goat since it has been many years since it had been used and I couldn't remember how to do it. Thanks Goat! Next on the agenda was an ultimately fruitless attempt to locate the composting toilet (in the light of day it turned out that I was about 20 yards or so from it). I arrived back at camp to find the crew enjoying s'mores and popcorn provided by Brommer. The festivities quickly died down and we headed for our sleeping bags.
The moonlit bay as viewed on several late night tree watering sessions was beautiful, the sunrise as viewed from my tent (which has a side window) was stunning. I finally arose to the sounds of breakfast preparations. The highlight of breakfast were Fritz's stove assembly efforts. Most of us had eaten before he got started on his pancakes. Thanks to Slush's Mom and Slush for providing the tasty zuchini bread.
Post breakfast we headed out onto the bay - minus Fritz who was still cleaning up. Our morning's paddle took us North into the wind. After a brief stop at Bird Spit and a small amount of seaweed flinging we continued our journey. Our ultimate destination was the Waquoit Bay Estuary Visitor's Center, which despite the signs saying it was open from 10 -5 was closed. Lunch, sunbathing, and swimming were engaged in at the boathouse before we headed back onto the water.
We settled on another stop at Bird Spit to swim. Fritz was first to make land. I followed a little more quickly than planed when I ran aground requiring a rescue from Fritz. The image of Fritz flapping his way to and through the assembled seagulls on his way to assist me will stay with me for a long time. Fritz and Goat soon set about rearranging the spit eventually creating a channel big enough for a kayak to pass through. Despite the warm water at the spit, the wind made swimming less pleasant than I would have liked.
We soon headed back to camp in small groups. On the way back I decided to do a little more exploring and headed south. A brief paddle along the southern end of the bay brought wonderful images of two fellows out wind boarding.
After changing clothes - I was really cold and wet, snacks and sunning on the beach it was time to pack up. Despite the best efforts of the assembled KSCers I headed back to civilization about 4:30. The wind had died down so it was an easier paddle than it would have been earlier in the day. The sun was brutal on the Seapit River portion - which made it seem like it took forever. But I was soon back at the put in. I chatted briefly with some locals at the put in then set about packing up the car for the journey home. I arrived home tired (10 hours of sleep took care of that) and sore (I know, Goat, I need to drink more water) but extremely happy.
Shortly after setting out I startled a heron from its perch on a submerged log. The heron and I had a couple more encounters as we both headed upriver. About a mile into the paddle the river takes a turn to the east as it skirts the edge of the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, and the sounds of the road dissapate. The banks of the river through this section show no signs of human habitation, and are populated by birds and turtles.
As the river moves into Dover houses appear on the eastern shore. There were several houses for sale and I found myself imagining what it would be like to live on the riverbank. Of course these houses are well out of my price range so this was just idle imagining.
After another wild section passing through marshland where I spied another heron, the river crosses under Bridge St/Farm Rd. At that point I turned around to ensure a return to the launch site before dark.
It was a very peaceful paddle, and I intend to return again when I have more time to explore even more of this section.
It was a lovely clear day, and though I saw powerboats the size of the lake mutes their impact. The shore is lined with many large rocks. My first wildlife sighting was a cormorant and a seagull resting on a rock together. I'd decided that was going to be it for the day when I rounded a curve and came upon a heron a couple of feet away. I'm not sure who was more surprised - me or the heron. The heron quickly exited. I came upon several more herons (or maybe the same heron several more times) as I continued around the lake. I also sighted a swan in a more marshy section.
Total paddle time for the day was 3 hours. This is definitely worth another visit - it's a beautiful lake and offers both open and secluded spaces.
After Colin left on Monday, I loaded up the kayak and headed to Walden Pond. I'd been swimming at Walden a few weeks earlier - note to self avoid Walden when the swim area is busy. The pond lies in a bowl and it holds and amplifies any noise from the swim area. It was much quieter on Labor Day although quite windy. I paddled the perimeter of the pond then did a couple of quick trips end to end. Walden is a weird contrast. It has been preserved to honor Thoreau and the peace he sought but in the time I was there it was assaulted by the sound of traffic on the road at the east end, airplanes flying over and the commuter rail passing on the west end.
Later that day Amy and I headed out to EMS in Acton (the saga of finding the kayak I wanted is a story all it's own) to pick up and pay for the kayak they were holding for me. It took a while to get the kayak onto the car the first time. Once we had it secured we headed over to Karen and Peter's, since we were in the neighborhood. After showing off the new boat, we had a lovely chat and got to try out the Adirondack chairs we gave them for a wedding present.
The next week I made a short visit to Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Newton to try out one of the kayaks. A highlight of the short paddle I took was having a heron swoop across the river, join up with a second heron and fly off. I kept that visit short, but returned the next Saturday for a longer try out.
CRCK is located at the intersection of routes 128 and 30. From there I paddled down river through marshy areas, on into an open lake like section populated by several swans, past turtles sunning on partially submerged logs, a cormorant sitting on the pilings of a old pier, and on past an old mill. I ended up at Moody Street in Waltham (3 miles downriver). I returned by the same route - it is a river after all - but wasn't ready to end my paddle yet. So I continued upriver passing under the turnpike and turnpike ramps, past the Lesley College boathouse, and along the edge of the Leo J. Martin golf course. I spent some time watching a heron fish in the marsh near the golf course, before continuing on. A near miss from an errant golf ball made a loud, startling splash just after I passed under the road that runs along the golf course. A little further upriver the river gets quite shallow. At that point I decided I should turn around. I was quite surprised to discover that I had been on the river for nearly 4 hours. Distance covered nearly 10 miles.
I don't have any kayaking photos yet, mostly because I haven't acquired a camera I feel confident taking out on the water. I have taken quite a few pictures with one-time use cameras. As soon as I get those developed I'll post the best.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
One highlight of our vacation was a visit from Tom and N. N thought the hardwood floors of the cabin were great - sure made pushing his trucks around really easy. The water was a great draw for him as well - especially if there was a "boap" (boat to the rest of us).
The first morning they were there N and I took a walk and quickly spotted a canoe whose passengers included a dog. This was of great interest to this dog loving little boy. By the time he'd been there a day he was an expert motorboat early warning system.
Another highlight of N's visit was his first high peaks hike. We tackled a portion of the Marcy Dam trail. N started in a back pack (he was just barely small enough to fit). It was a slightly gloomy afternoon with rain threatening. We stopped about half-way to have a snack. At that point the rain started in earnest and we decided to head back to the car. N, who Tom had taken out of the pack during our break, was adament that he was not going back into it. So we started back with N walking - and stomping in every puddle - some two or three times. At times it took all our persuasive efforts to convince him to leave one puddle for the next. He also insisted on climbing up and down every obstacle himself. He was especially fond of the bridges (which made his Daddy awfully nervous since the bridges along the trail don't have railings).
When the hike was finished Nick was one very happy and very filthy little boy. I'm not sure who was more excited about Nick's first hike - Nick or his proud Papa.
N was much less fond of the Rainbow Lake water - it was too cold for his liking. Amy thinks this shows that he is a very smart fellow. I think he'll come around when he gets a little older.
Day two of N and Tom's visit featured a drive up Whiteface and N's first (but probably not last) visit to the top of one of the High Peaks. He was not particulary happy to have to remain in the backpack, but did get a couple minutes of closely monitored freedom.
The trip down Whiteface resulted in a dead clutch on Tom's car - and led to an afternoon at the ice cream place in Wilmington. The good news is that we had shade, a place to sit, food, a bathroom and lots of trucks, dogs, trucks with boats, and people to watch. N just took this in as another part of the adventure.
The broken car meant a round trip to Albany for the Aunties so that the boys could get home. It was a long drive but traffic was light, and we were able to get back to the cabin that night.
Once again we spent 2 wonderful weeks in Owl Cabin. My favorite part of vacation is the lake. After unpacking my first order of business was a swim. Despite sleeping late the first morning (and being awakened by Amy asking me how she would know it was time to get up if I didn't go swim) the lake was calm and quiet when I headed out. It was so quiet in fact that at one point my eyes were drawn upward by the sound of flapping wings as a heron crossed over the lake.
Much of vacation was spent on or in the water. In addition to my morning swims (not all as quiet as the first thanks to construction on one of the houses in the cove), I spent quite a bit of time out kayaking. I have discovered a new addiction, but more about that later.
Monday, June 20, 2005
The game was never close, but I was in the zone. From the start of the game the strike zone was absolutely clear, and the on-base calls were without question. One of the pitchers was hitting his spots with amazing accuracy. And there were quite a few strike outs. I'm still having a little trouble calling rise balls, but I'm confident that will get better.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Wellesley's reunion was last weekend. It was Amy's 20th and my Mom's 50th, and it was hot, really, really hot. My parents were staying with us so we cranked up the ancient airconditioners (window units built into the wall) in our living room and bedroom. To our amazement they actually worked and managed to get the house to a tolerable temperature.
It was fun to see all our friends from Amy's class, and I enjoyed seeing friends of my Mother's - most of whom I haven't seen in decades. I didn't have as many in-depth conversations as at past reunions, but it was a fun weekend.
There was a casualty, however. After the alumnae parade on Sunday, which Amy was at the Alumnae Association meeting, I decided to take a break on Green Beach , next to the library. The water looked very inviting and having forgotten that my car keys, including the electronic alarm key, were in my back pocket. The water felt great, but the electronic key did not survive it's dip.
It's finally done!
The 11 year desk project is complete. Begun while I was un/underemployed in 1994 the desk has been worked on in fits and starts since. With our impending renovation (another project that's taking much longer than expected) I am trying to finish the projects cluttering my workshop.
So to the workshop I went to focus on finishing the desk. It's made of ash and ash plywood. The legs are formed from "bat blanks" which are intended to be turned on a lathe into baseball bats. Because ash is an open grained wood all of the parts were filled with grain filler. I'm still cleaning up the dust from sanding off the filler. The dust is the consistency of flour and coated everything in the shop.
The finish on the top is varnish, the remainder of the desk is finished with polyurethane. The slanted section of the lid opens to reveal a spacious storage compartment, complete with a nest of small slots.
The weeks of rain made getting the finish on the desk a challenge. The first coat of varnish took 5 days to dry, the second was dry in 4. We kept the fan going fairly high on the drive to New Jersey to keep the fumes down. The base had to be assembled upon arrival, since it wouldn't fit into the car otherwise. D helped with the clamping.
The delivery was a complete surprise - Terri and family were only expecting us to visit, they didn't know we were bringing things with us. Before Terri was ready to see what surprise we had in the car D attempted to figure out what it was. Given the clues that it was big, stinky and Tama (his name for Terri) would really like it he guessed a few absurd things - elephant - and a few that show he really knows his Tama - book, yogurt.
Also, a surprise was the toy box I made for D. It's maple, and features a mahagony star on the inside of the lid. D had a lot of fun climbing into it.
The Child Study Center recently dedicated its new Children's Garden. Faced with a need to renovate the playgrounds to meet new safety requirements, they took the opportunity to think about what children need from outdoor spaces, and to create spaces that will feed the needs of children for interaction with nature and each other.
The space is absolutely beautiful, even without the plantings that are soon to be added.
Included is a new space for the youngest children (2s), who have always shared space with the middle group (3s). The slide is built into a small hill, and when the rhododendrons grow up around it the children will climb through what for them is a forest to the observation deck at the top of the slide.
The gardens also feature space for children to plant and grow, not just sand to dig in.
In early May I took a trip to San Diego for a conference. The conference itself was good. I learned a few things, practiced my networking skills, and reconnected with folks I've met in previous years.
I'm not a great fan of California, but I really enjoy San Diego. I had visited the zoo 5 years ago when I was there for the same conference, so this year I decided to investigate the rest of Balboa Park. There are a number of museums there - I particularly enjoyed the Mingei International Museum. The picture here is of a sculpture outside the Mingei. The museum is a folk art museum showing "arts of the people". There was only one exhibit on display the day I was there. The exhibit was of the art of the Indonesian archipelago. I was particularly impressed by the wood and metal stamps that are used for creating patterns on batik fabric. They have an amazing level of intricacy.
I also visited the Museum of Photographic Arts. I was mesmerized by an exhibit of the photographs of Edward Burtynsky entitled Manufactured Landscapes. Burtynsky has taken pictures of strip mines, ship salvage yards, quarries and the like. There is a beauty to the photographs that is unexpected from pictures of industrial sites.
The construction has not been without problems. The landlord is being picketed for hiring non-union workers for part of the project (and another also being done in the building). The picketers are, for the most part, respectful. And I've been amused by the inflated rat which is visible outside the building each morning - it's usually gone by 2pm.
I wrote this a month ago (while in San Diego)but hadn't had a chance to post it till now. I don't have a good picture to go with it. The back yard looked pretty good for a while, but the weeds have started to take over again. I'm going to have to get back out and attack it again soon.
Almost all of the administration has moved over/up into newly renovated space on the 7th floor. IT is now occupying a corner of the 6th floor while one end is renovated for us. We’ve been living with the noise of first demolition, and now construction for more than a month. It's getting better - the crew is down to final details now.
It's been kind of fun watching the construction but it has meant lots of noise, dust, power outages, heat from air conditioning outages, and all the other annoyances of construction. My least favorite have been the far too frequent bathroom closures.
The new space is bright, and the data center is really nice. Most of us will be in cubicles. At the moment the cubicles are way to solid - they're missing the glass panels everyone thought they were supposed to have. I guess it'll all work out in the end.
We spent part of the weekend of Patriot’s Day (April 16-18) in New Hampshire with our ski friends. We were there to act as ‘sherpas’ for the KSC’s team in the Friends of Tuckerman’s Inferno Pentathalon. The team event consists of an 8 mile run, a 5 mile kayak, an 8 mile bike, and a hike up Mt. Wahington to the base of Tuckerman’s Ravine where the final ski leg begins. Our team includes a sherpa crew responsible for getting racers and their gear to the assigned start positions, taking custody of extra clothing, and anything else that enables the racers to concentrate on the race. We arrived Friday night and received our marching orders. Our during race responsibilities amounted to cheering and photography. Our assignment was the after race pasta feast.
Everyone was to be up and out of the house by 6:15am to arrive at the start to cheer on Rambo, our runner. Departure from the KFFRC was delayed due to a clock in the bunkhouse which was still on daylight savings time. Once the runners headed off, we took off for a midway point. There we cheered on Rambo with signs and screams. Once Rambo passed our location we hopped back into the cars and headed to the run-kayak tag zone.
Upon arrival at the runner-kayak tag zone we discovered Kristen (no ski name yet) suited up and ready to paddle. After a short race Rambo was spotted coming up the path. Kristen got into place, the tag was made, and off she went – with Rambo right beside her. Our vantage point didn’t give us a view of the river, so we headed back to the cars.
Next stop was the covered bridge, partway down the kayak course. After a short wait, during which a major topic of conversation was what color kayak Kristen was in, and what color clothing she was wearing, Kristen appeared around the bend looking pretty smooth despite the fact that this was only her second run down a river. After cheering encouragement to Kristen, we headed for the kayak-bike tag zone.
The end of the kayak run was at a shallow point in the river. Each kayaker had to paddle in, climb out of their kayak, pull the kayak up onto the bank and then run across a field to the edge of the road. I was given biker notification duty – when we spied Kristen I headed to the road to let Fritz, our biker, know she was on her way. Then I picked a spot where I could get a picture of the tag. The tag zone was at the edge of the road, where the field was divided from the road by a row of 2 foot tall boulders. Most of the tags consisted of the kayaker leaning over the boulders to tag the biker. Kristen came up to the boulders at a full run, and instead of stopping leaped onto the top of a boulder, and launched herself off of it tagging Fritz while in mid-air.
After a quick stop for soda and water we headed toward the parking lot at the Wildcat ski area, taking time to cheer on the intrepid biker as we passed. We staked out a spot at the far end of the Wildcat parking lot for the post race BBQ. For the rest of the race our only communication with the racers and sherpas was by way of two way radios.
Artist, our hiker, hiked primarily in silence since his sherpa, Ober, had headed up the mountain earlier so that he’d have warm clothes to put on when he was done hiking. he wasn’t carrying his own radio, and most of the hike is out of radio range anyway. Once Ober got to the base of Tuckerman’s Ravine both Ober and Goat provided us with updates. Goat, our skier, finished his hike/ski leg in just over 30 minutes. (The ski leg requires that the skier hike from the bottom of Tuckerman’s Ravine to the top before skiing down.)
The temperature climbed as the day progressed by the time we were settled in the Wildcat parking lot we were down to t-shirts. Pete fired up the grill, and cooked burgers and sausages – the first round went to the runner, kayaker, biker, their sherpas and the cheering crew. A couple of hours later the second round went to the hiker skier and their sherpas.
Results from the race took a couple weeks to come in, but since it’s taken me even more to write this, here they are: Overall 18th, Team 13th, run 26th, kayak 28th, bike 14th, hike 18th, ski 14th.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The weekend before last was consumed by the NEFFA festival (New England Folk Festival). This wonderful event takes place each year at Natick High School. Most of the town doesn't know it's happening, since the high school is somewhat secluded. We discovered NEFFA when the Broadmoor Chamber Singers sang at the event a bunch of years ago. Since then I've tried to go each year. It hasn't always been easy, because the weekends of April seem to be the busiest of the year for us.
This year NEFFA was earlier than usual. It's usually the weekend following Patriot's Day since that week is school vacation week, and having the event at the end of that means the organizers have plenty of time to set up.
The weekend includes music - both entertainment and participatory, dance, a folk bazaar and craft area, and arts & crafts area for the children. A variety of food is available from Scottish meat pies, to Indian curry, to Turkish kabobs. Lots of the people who attend participate each year. I have friends from a couple areas of my life - Wellesley, GLOW, Broadmoor, Whitehead - who I can count on seeing at NEFFA.
Friday night turned out to be Northeast Kingdom night for me. One of the first events I attended was a performance by the Pumpkin Hill Singers from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. They performed primarily original pieces. One of these, "One Thousand Good Reasons to Sing", really struck me. The story the lyricist related was that it was written shortly after September 11th, when he had 1000 Christmas trees to load by himself. The song became the mantra he used to keep his spirits up. My favorite line in the song says "If we can't change the world and our choices seem few, we always can alter our own point of view". The group's leader was kind enough to send me a copy of the song - thanks Susanne. After the Open Sea Music Sing - which makes me wish I knew more shanties. The night ended with a round sing led by the Vermont Women's Round Sing which is based in St Johnsbury. Because most rounds are easy to learn, round sings are great fun. And singing rounds at NEFFA is always a great experience because so many of the people attending sing beautifully.
Saturday included more listening and more singing - rounds, shanties, etc. Highlights of the day were the performance by Constellation, the women's octet which my friend Liz sings in, and the Vocal Couple Dances which my friend Ken sang with Lynn, a NEFFA regular. I also worked in an early evening walk - I was really tired of sitting and really need to move, so I skipped a session and walked from the high school past the beach, the athletic fields, and the town dump to route 27 and back. I felt much better after that.
Sunday started with Shape Note hymns. Shape note is an alternative notation method that utilizes shapes to indicate the pitch. The songs are sung first using do-re-mi, etc. I find this very difficult but love the sound of these rousing hymns. Other highlights were more round singing, and a session of Acadian music.
Monday, March 28, 2005
There has been no snowshoeing for the last 2 weekends. Amy arrived home late on March 18th. A few hours later I was up to head to the airport to fly to New Orleans for a user group meeting (for COEUS - grant pre-award tracking software). Note to self - do not book 7am departures, they require being up _way_ too early.
The flights) to New Orleans by way of LaGuardia were uneventful. I even got a movie, "After the Sunset", on the flight from NYC to New Orleans. "After the Sunset" is the story of a diamond thief, played by Pierce Brosnan, who retires to a Caribbean island with his assistant/love interest, Penelope Cruz. He's followed to the island by an FBI agent, Woody Harrelson, who is convinced that he moved there to be in position to steal another of the "Napolean diamonds" which is being exhibited on a cruise ship soon to be docked at the island. The movie is a study of the relationships between the thief, the FBI agent, and the love interest. It has a small amount of action, nice shots of beautiful scenery and some cool technology. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars out of 4.
On the ride from the airport to my hotel, entertainment was provided by the van driver. He started off with a pronunciation lesson, kept us quite entertained with detailed instructions on the art of eating crawfish like a native, pointed out the "beadtrees", and finished with warnings on how to avoid getting ripped off. Among his advice - you should suck the head of the crawfish until its eyes are cross-eyed, then bang your head on the table to uncross your own eyes. The patter definitely made the trip go faster.
First stop in New Orleans, after checking into my hotel and having lunch was the Audubon Aquarium. The aquarium is a relatively short walk from the hotel, about 6 blocks. It sits on the banks of the Mississippi along the Riverwalk. It's a nice aquarium, although I'd avoid it on Saturday afternoons, if possible. It was full of noisy children. Highlights were the Amazon Rainforest and the white alligator.
Sunday, Monday, and most of Tuesday were taken up with conference meetings. I did make use of the rooftop pool (heated) and hot tub each day. The pool was too short for much real swimming, but I was getting enough exercise walking around the city so I really didn't need to swim for exercise.
The hotel, Le Pavillon, is quite posh. There are many crystal chandeliers in the public areas, the dining room has small painted vignettes along the ceiling beams, the elevator door on the top floor is painted with a vineyard scene, and above the chandeliers in the center of each hall is painted some sort of plant life. My floor had lavender, other floors had ivy, and grapes - I did not do a full survey. The pool decor includes marble statues.
During the conference we (Tony and Jen from work and I) walked into the French Quarter for lunch and dinner. We had very good bar-b-que at Zydeque, Po'boys at Mother's (which is not in the French Quarter, and messy burgers at Yo Mamas.
Once Tuesday afternoon arrived we went our separate ways - Jen to the airport, and Tony to the casino. I headed for the French Market an area of small shops near Jackson Square. I managed to get on the wrong streetcar, one that didn't go all the way to the French Market, and ended up walking an extra 7 blocks but it was a nice day so it wasn't that bad. (The forecasted rain never did appear.)
Jackson Square attracts a variety of artists who set up along the perimeter of the square. In addition to the visual art, there were several musicians - I particularly enjoyed the saxophonist playing on the corner near Cafe du Monde, and the jazz band playing in an open air restaurant.
After shopping for an hour or so I set off in search of dinner. I ended up in a seafood restaurant on Bourbon Street. The food was passable, and entertainment was provided by the people walking by. On the way back to the hotel I passed several musicians playing on the sidewalk. One highlight was the 2 trombone players at opposite ends of one block who were dueling. It was a lot of fun to listen to at the middle of that block.
Wednesday was my play day in New Orleans. I headed to the Audubon Zoo by way of the streetcar. I hopped on the streetcar a few blocks from my hotel. The streetcar runs down St. Charles Avenue and gave many opportunites to view the "beadtrees" and lots of pretty houses. After exiting the streetcar at Audubon Park, on the edge of the Tulane University campus, I boarded the zoo shuttle for the last part of the journey.
The zoo is a nice small zoo. The day I was there it was full of children on field trips. There is a really beautiful fountain near the entrance with elephants in the center, and hippo heads peeking out of the water on the edges. It's ringed with benches enough to seat close to 100 people.
I headed first for the African Savannah exhibit, mostly cause it's on the way to the Louisiana Swamp exhibit. It includes Monkey Hill which is not were the primates live. It was built early in the last century so that the children of New Orleans, which is a very flat city, could experience a hill. It appeared to be a favorite spot for the children. There were dozens climbing up the hill, rolling down the grass section, playing in the rocky stream, and climbing down the rope spider web on one edge.
The swamp exhibit includes a black bear, for lack of a better place to put him. Several alligators - some small, one extra large, and one white (sibling to the white alligator at the aquarium). Also, on exhibit are raccoons. Given the number of raccoons I have seen in the "wild" I did not linger. Several of the children who were nearby were thrilled by the raccoons, though.
From there I headed through the Jaquar jungle where the highlight was the misters - there are several strategically located throughout the zoo providing a spot to cool down. I also enjoyed the cotton top macaques - a small primate with what looks like a ball of cotton on the top of their head. After a quick tour through the Primate exhibit - where the only active critter was one orangutan who put on a 4 minute show before retreating into the shade - I headed back toward the hotel.
I took a small detour on the way to stop in Jackson Square to pick up a book I'd seen the day before. This time I took the correct streetcar, so didn't have to walk any more blocks than necessary. I also took the time to pick up dinner, so that I wouldn't have to venture back out after dark, or eat expensive hotel food.
The trip home on Thursday was fine, although not without it's unexpected moments. It too started _way_ too early in the morning. (Did I mention that 7am flights should be avoided...) My flight was supposed to include a layover in Philadelphia but no change of plane. After we landed in Philly, we were notified that there was to be a "change of equipment" airline speak for "different plane". And as long as they were making us change planes they decided to make us change terminal wings as well. So, it was off to gate C21 from gate A21 where we were. The Philadelphia airport does have strategically placed moving walkways, however, so the walk wasn't that bad. The gate area was overcrowded with many people standing - the result of the airline having scheduled two flights to depart from that gate area (two gates) at basically the same time. Because of the change of planes our departure was delayed while the replacement plane was pulled out of the hanger.
Once on the plane the flight was uneventful. Upon arrival in Boston I dutifully proceeded to baggage claim. When the baggage from my flight arrived it consisted of 10 bags - just 10, and did not include mine. After waiting a bit to see if more baggage appeared from the portal, I checked in with the baggage office. The woman there was fairly sure my luggage would be on the next flight from Philadelphia which was due in 30 minutes later. I decided to wait rather than having it delivered by the airline. An hour later the luggage from the next flight arrived, and it did include mine. I gladly gathered it up, headed out to the van which showed up less than 5 minutes later and was off to home.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
After spending hours shoveling on Sunday, I had no energy left for snowshoeing. Rather than push myself beyond reasonable limits, I invoked the Shelley rule - when you think about doing something stupid think what Shelley would say. So I decided to take Monday off and snowshoe then.
Monday dawned bright and clear, a picture postcard kind of day. After doing a little work in the morning, and with a need to be home and available I grabbed my gear and headed out. I headed to the Weston Ski Track, 15 minutes and 3 town lines away.
The trails at the Weston Ski Track range over the grounds of the Leo J. Martin Memorial golf course. With trail pass firmly attached I headed out. It was only as I was strapping the snowshoes on that I realized I'd brought Amy's not mine. The good news is that they are almost identical, and all that was required was a small amount of strap adjustment.
The trail I chose makes a 2km loop starting along the edge of the parking lot, then turning to follow the banks of the Charles River, then up a hill (affectionately listed on the trail map as Mt. Weston) before turning back toward the club house.
Snow conditions were extremely varied ranging from dry, fluffy "freshies" to crunchy ice crust and finally, where the sun had been beating down on the snow, to what my skier buddies refer to as "mashed potatoes". The trails are nice and wide, with lots of opportunity for making my own tracks.
Temperature when I started off was 40 according to the thermometers on the back of the trail rules sign. In open spots it was quite windy, as evidenced by the spinning fans in the snowmaking machines.
The trails were busier than I'd expected but open and wide enough to not feel crowded. I didn't see any other snowshoers, though.
One drawback to the trail I chose is that as it makes the u-turn to head back to the clubhouse, it borders Route 128, the train tracks, and the Mass Pike. I really wished that I'd brought my iPod, so that I didn't have to listen to the traffic. It was definitely not a wilderness experience. And to top it off I missed the excitement of the tractor-trailer accident at the intersection of 128 and the Pike, which happened between when I passed and when I got into the car 25 minutes later.
To finish off my play day, I headed for the workshop and spent a couple of hours sanding, vacuuming (I even vacuumed the floor outside the workshop), and dry fitting the parts of the project I'm working on together.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Sunday, March 13, 2005
On one break I watched the movie "Friday Night Lights". It's an interesting movie but didn't grab my interest as much as I expected. It is the story of one football season at a high school in Odessa, Texas. If you know anything about the importance of football in the lives of many in Texas, the film is quite predictable. I thought the character development was weak, which given that the entire plot is the football season is perhaps why it didn't pull me in.
About 4pm as the snow was winding down I decided to begin to dig out. The front walk wasn't too bad. Most of this years shoveling has been of the push it until you can't push it any further, then scoop it up variety. This storm is not. This is the scrap a layer off the top and dump it, repeat until you find pavement variety. The plow droppings at the edge of the street were of the basic rock variety. Last night they weren't too solid so I was able to split them with my plastic blade shovel.
A note about the shovel - earlier this winter I became fed up with the shovels we owned. Both have wide short blades which are fine for pushing snow but not for lifting it. So, off I went to Home Depot to procure a shovel with a squarish blade. What I ended up with is a shovel with a funky bent handle designed to be more ergonomic. I love this shovel. Amy loves this shovel. I should have bought 2 - I went back later to get another but found only lawnmowers and weed wackers. Next year... The handle of the shovel is long enough to give enough force to fling shovelfulls quite a distance. A benefit to shoveling a driveway that touchs the neighbors driveway. With the shovel I can send most of the snow into our yard, rather than struggling to add it to the 1 foot wide pile dividing the driveways.
After reaching the street it was on to the driveway. Three linear feet of plow droppings awaited. It was slow, tiring work. And it was hear that I discovered that a small layer of slickness under the snow. Picture if you will me standing in eight inches of snow in the driveway shoveling toward the street. It was the only way (without a trip back into the house - more on this later) to avoid ending up on my rear - it was that slick. I gave up once I'd cleared the plow leavings, but not before pulling out the camera (I'll get a picture or two loaded sometime today).
I was up early this morning, having collapsed into bed fairly early last night. I was going to laze in bed, but had to find the source of the beeping I kept hearing. It turned out to be the carbon monoxide monitor screaming for new batteries. After the trip to the basement, I wasn't in the mood to crawl back into bed. So I suited up in long undies and sweat pants, had a leisurely breakfast, added rain pants, gloves, boots and hat to my attire and headed out.
I had to give the walk another once over to clear the additional 1/2 inch of snow that arrived after last night's shoveling. The edge of the street had another pile of plow droppings. The ones at the end of the walk were small enough to move without splitting, but when I reached the driveway I discovered a few the size of small cars (well kiddie cars anyway). The plastic shovel was no match for these boulders, so I headed back to the porch for the short handled steel shovel. It weighs a ton, but does a great job splitting ice boulders. This proved to be the right tool for the job and made short work of the boulders. As I got down to the pavement, again, I discovered that the layer of slick was still there. So I added my yaktraxs to me outfit.
For those unfamiliar with yaktrax, they are large rubber webs which fit over the sole of your boot. What makes them useful are the wires wrapped around the web on the bottom. The wires bite into ice and give you great traction.
With the yaktrax firmly attached to my boots the shoveling was much easier, and I didn't have to stand in the unshoveld snow to maintain my footing. The snow untouched by the plow proved much easier to shovel. I've done the top 4 linear feet the full width of the driveway, a 2 foot wide swath down to the car, and most of the flat in front of the car (the car is parked against the garage door. The goal for the day is to be able to get my car out. I'm not going to worry about getting Amy's car out yet.
Monday, March 07, 2005
I spent a good part of last week itching to go snowshoeing. I did have to work part of the weekend so the snowshoeing location had to be close to home. I investigated the possibilities at two places I've never visited (Great Brook Farm and the Weston Ski Track). Amy decided to join me and requested a return to Broadmoor, since it's so convenient.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Unfortunately we weren't moving that quickly. By the time we suited up and headed out clouds had moved in. Not to worry, though, we were dressed for whatever Mother Nature threw our way. We suited up outside the Nature Center and head for the Marsh Trail. With temperatures in the upper 30s/low 40s the snow was soft and mushy. This made the going difficult at times.
It was clear that the weather has been on the warmer side - we saw several small insects along the way. As always the trails were not very crowded, although we did see a few other people along the way. I had to stop a couple of times for boot adjustment. (It's definitely time for new boots.)
Since we were returning to a site I'd visited so recently, we headed off to investigate previously unknown trails. At the Mill Pond we attempted to locate a short trail that is supposed to cut across the stream before joining up with the Boundary trail. We were denied, we got across the stream but it was unclear where the trail went from there. Given the warmth of the day we decided to err on the side of caution and not test the limits of the ice on the far edge of the stream.
After returning to the Mill Pond trail we followed the south side of the trail to the Boundary Trail. The Boundary Trail heads north east along the edge of the Sanctuary's boundary. Along the way we found a couple of stretches of bare ground (it is weird snowshoeing on pine needles), a tree with a very impressive top to bottom split, and at the point where the sanctuary backs up to a neighborhood several back yards. It was a little odd to snowshoe behind the houses. Just past the houses the trail heads down a fairly steep hill into an open field. Here we encountered another significant patch of bare ground.
The going across the field was probably the most difficult of the day. The wet snow was heavy and what trail existed was not very wide. Whether we walked in the existing trail, or off to the side we were breaking a new trail. At the far end of the field the trail map indicates that the trail crosses a branch of the Charles River. When we arrived there, we didn't see anyway to cross without getting wet feet. Our alternative was removing our snowshoes, climbing over a stone wall and walking in the road that borders this edge of the Sanctuary to the other side of the river. So, off with the snowshoes, over the wall, and across the bridge we went (that's where this picture was taken).
Once across the bridge we sat down on the stone wall to reattach our snowshoes, and have a snack. From there we headed back into the woods, up a slight hill to the junction of the Glacial Hill and Mill Pond trails. Amy was feeling pretty pooped at this point (a surprise to me since I'm usually the one to tire first) so we headed back toward the Nature Center. We took the southern leg of the Mill Pond trail, which traverses hill before heading down to join the Marsh trail.
After a short break at the Marsh lookout, it was back to the car and home.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
The silver lining of the day is that I got a surprise - a bonus for all the work I did on the upgrade/implementation over the last 2 1/2 years. I really wasn't expecting it. And to top that off I'm not going to have to spend as much time working next weekend as I expected so there should be time for snowshoeing.
Monday, February 28, 2005
It occurred to me late last week that I don't need to go north to snowshoe. There are a couple of places close to home with trails suitable for snowshoeing. The trick is setting aside the time to go.
Amy was going to be busy at least part of Saturday sorting fruit for a chorus fundraiser, so I decided I'd head to the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary (5 miles, and 10 minutes from home). This required renewing my Audobon membership which had expired.
Saturday morning dawned bright, and a bit cold. I suited up - long undies top and bottom, ski pants, fleece vest, windbreaker (it wasn't _that_ cold) - and packed up - mittens, fleece hat, head band, baseball cap, sun glasses (I really need to acquire googles), turtle fur (fleece tube that's worn in place of a scarf and face mask), water, snacks (nuts, dried fruit, chocolate), camera, extra batteries, car keys (to Amy's car since she was going to need mine to lug fruit around), wallet, snowshoes and poles - and headed off to Broadmoor.
A full 14 minutes after leaving home (stop lights), I pulled into the parking lot. After checking in at the Nature Center, I strapped on the snowshoes and headed out toward the Indian Brook trail. The patterns on the snow as the trail crosses an open field were fascinating. Most were old snowshoe prints filled in by the small snow storm we had a couple days earlier. I did see deer prints as well.
After crossing the field, the trail heads downhill toward Indian Brook. Along the way I saw one skier, a solo walker, and a small group of walkers. I've spent just enough time snowshoeing in places that prohibit walking on the trails that I'm always amazed to see people trudging along a snowy trail in boots. I had to remind myself that Broadmoor doesn't limit access based on footwear. Later in the day I did have to bite my tongue when I was passed by a man in penny loafers. Broadmoor isn't backwoods by any stretch of the imagination (I don't think you're ever more than 1/2 mile from houses) but penny loafers in wet snow just isn't too smart.
At the point where the trail crosses Indian Brook (as far as I'd ever been on this trail) I crossed the brook (after a brief shoe tightening) stopping on the bridge to take this picture. This put me on the Glacial Hill trail. As I mentioned, I've never explored this trail before. I was expecting a hill of some sort but all I found were gentle rises and gentle drops. It did feel like I was much further removed from civilization than I actually was. The only sounds were the wind in the trees, occasional bird calls, and the gentle ringing of the zipper pull on my back pack.
About mid-way on the section of the trail I traversed I spotted a woodpecker high in a tree. I wasn't bird watching, but the bright red on the bird's head caught my eye. The bird proved elusive and I wasn't able to get a picture of it. I can't even note what variety it was, 'cause I haven't looked it up in our bird book yet.
I took a short detour onto the western edge of the Marsh trail to a rock outcropping which features a bench which makes a very nice spot for a break. I did have to bushwhack to avoid what looks to be a recent mostly fallen tree - it's stuck on another tree with only about 3 feet of clearance underneath. Then it was back to the Glacial Hill trail.
At the east end of the Glacial Hill trail I turned north and descended the steepest part of the hill (which isn't very steep) to the edge of the Mill Pond where I took a break on the stone bridge, and had a lot of fun taking pictures of the ice formations on the waterfall side of the bridge.
From there I proceeded along a portion of the Mill Pond trail past yet another waterfall, and the site of my only snowshoeing accident (2 years ago - caught the end of a snowshoe on a rock and jammed my thumb when I caught myself with my pole.) to the Marsh trail. From here I could see the Nature Center, my first glimpse of civilization since I'd headed out.
There were unidentified animal track on the marsh, and the sound of small planes overhead. I took advantage of the relatively new boardwalk across one edge of the marsh (okay for snowshoeing due to the 3 inches of snow on top, before heading up the final hill.
When I got to the car, I was very startled to discover I'd been out for almost 3 hours. Particularly, when I figured out that the entire trip was only about 1 1/4 mile. However, unlike the groomed trails at the XC centers, there are no groomed trails at the Sanctuary, and I did a lot of trail breaking.
I was also dismayed to discover that my boots have lost most of what little waterproofness they ever had. I'm definitely going to have to do something about that before heading out again.
The snowshoe site for Sunday, February 20th, was Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center (http://www.greatglentrails.com/index.html), conveniently located just up the road from Wildcat. After dropping off the skiers I proceeded to the lodge. Parking was secured conveniently close to the entrance. I quickly acquired my trail pass and a trail map, and plotted out my day.
After traversing the convenient tunnel under Route 16, I discovered that the afformentioned plan was not to be. Unclear on the trail map was the lack of direct connection from the tunnel to the south (Wildcat) side of the trails. Access to that end of the trails requires either a 2km jaunt through the north side of the trail system, or as I discovered at the end of the day hitching a ride with the tubing shuttle. (They also have a tubing hill.)
So, off I went to the north basically making up my route as I went along. Views of the Toon were spectacular, the trails were uncrowded, and the day spectacular. At about the 1.5km mark I took a short break at the top of the tubing hill, including a short visit to the heated yurt (tent complete with wood stove) and porta-potty (oddly enough labelled with my last name – guess some distant relative is in the porta-potty business), and a change of head gear.
After once again purusing the trail map I decided to venture off the groomed trails, and explore a back country trail called Outback, with the intent of doubling back to the tubing hill on a switchback called Hiccup (more on that in a minute). Outback proved to be a nice wooded, snowshoe only trail partway up a ridge (about 400 feet of vertical climb). While slightly more climbing than I’d originally intended, it was superb – heavily wooded, quiet enough to hear the trees cracking in the cold, secluded (I didn’t see anyone else for about an hour – for those who are concerned I carry a high decible whistle with me), and for the most part well marked.
Upon reaching the southern end of the trail, having missed the Hiccup switchback (maybe the trail wasn’t as well marked as I thought) I discovered how Plunge got it’s name. When I regained my footing after leaving my mark on the mountain, I managed to traverse the last 60 feet of incline without incident.
Earlier intentions to partake of the tubing hill were abandoned due to crowding, hunger, and no desire to climb up anything else.
After a quick bowl of soup in the lodge, I reconnoitered with the skiers at Wildcat.
All in all a great day –
Final calculations on distance are still to be determined but it’s about 6km distance, 400 ft vertical.
Bear Notch is in Bartlett, New Hampshire just 3 miles north of the Attitash ski area. The day started at the Highlands Inn in Bethlehem, where Amy and I were enjoying a 4 night stay for our (original) anniversary. (22 years on Feb 5). When we left the Inn we were expecting that Amy would meet up with Fritz and Inga from the KSC at Attitash. The drive was uneventful, since the day was a crisp, clear, postcard perfect New Hampshire day. After dropping Amy off at Attitash I headed back north to Bear Notch.
The "lodge" at Bear Notch is quite a contrast with the modern lodge at Bretton Woods. Bretton Woods has a fancy gift shop, and cafe and comes complete with locker rooms with showers. The lodge at Bear Notch is an old farm house (tickets and rentals) and barn (snack bar). The men's restroom is a porta-potty in the driveway. The parking lot was a challenge to walk on reminiscent of the closed section of the Perimeter trail at BW 2 days earlier.
After acquiring my ticket and a small amount of advise from the attendant, I headed across Rt 302 to the more level section of trails. I was very pleased to find a picnic table near the start of the trails. It's so much easier to get the snow shoes on with the aid of a bench. That's where I was when I met Bob. We had a nice walk that mostly followed trails 12 and 13, with a short stint on 16. I had a nice conversation with Bob, although I would have liked quiet time as well.
I ended up cutting the day short, after two stops for shoe related problems. The first to tighten my boot, the second to check on a pain on my left heal which turned out to be a blister. Unfortunately, I didn't have a bandaid in my bag. I did get it cleaned up and bandaged when I got back to the car (and it's all gone now).
I'll definitely visit Bear Notch again. The trails were nice and secluded (as opposed to the golf course hugging trails at Bretton Woods). They've also got a pretty good variety of trails, over more than 60km.
Took this on February 3rd at the Bretton Woods Nordic Center. This was taken on the Perimeter trail. If you look really carefully you might see Amy skiing. ;-)
The day was hazy and warm (I ditched my gloves early on and never did put them back on), but the views of the west side of Mt Washington were great. The snowshoeing was good, but the trail had significant bare spots. Most of the coverage was 2-4" - not great for early February. The good news is that there was significant snowfall a week or so later.
The trails at BW are fairly well marked, although like most areas the trail markings near the lodge weren't that great. I took a short detour around the back yard of the lodge as a result.
I also missed the markings on the trail map posted in the lodge indicating a short section of the Perimeter trail was closed. I discovered this after my outing, when I went in to make sure the staff knew that a 500 foot or so section of the trail was a very bumpy skating rink. All I can say is that it's a very good thing that snowshoes have crampons, and that I snowshoe with poles.
In the past my participation in the KSC has been limited to cooking (hence my skiname, Chef), and hanging out at the house or in the ski lodge. I've gone snowshoeing on a couple of the trips mostly in Lake Placid. And after we acquired snowshoes for Amy three years ago (I think) we've done some snowshoeing on our own.
Three times in the last month, while we were in New Hampshire I've gone shoeshoeing while Amy was off flinging herself down a hill on skinny boards. The last time was as part of a KSC trip. Prompted partly by a conversation with Sunshine (aka Karen) I posted a report of my snowshoeing activities as part of the weekend report on the KSC website.
While snowshoeing closer to home on Saturday I decided that I should share that with my family and friends. Which leads us to this blog. For the next month or two this will be largely a report of snow activities, after that we'll see.