Thursday, February 28, 2008

PhotoSharks: Games

My favorite online game.
Warning: it is _extremely_ addicting.

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Thursday Challenge: Travel

Historic Trolley on Market Street
(Bonus San Francisco picture)

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

PhotoSunday: W

White walls, and snow covered roof.

See more PhotoSunday here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

San Francisco: Day 6

After packing out things for the trip home, we headed off for some museum viewing. First stop was the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, a small museum. The current exhibit is called the Fabric of Cultures. The exhibit includes examples of fabric ornamentation from a variety of cultures.

Outside we spent a few minutes looking at the building under construction for the Contemporary Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

Then it was off to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They are currently showing an installation exhibit by Olafur Eliasson. The included work examines perceptions of space, light, and our surroundings. It was interesting but much of it made me dizzy. Of much more interest were the photography exhibits, both the works from their collection and the special exhibit of work done by Italian photographer, Gabriele Basilico.

After we finished at the museum we picked up lunch at the Metreon. We hadn't made any plans for the afternoon so we spent time soaking up the sun in the park outside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. When we'd had our fill, we wandered to the Westfield Center intending to find a spot to have something to drink. We quickly reached sensory overload and retreated to the hotel and settled into the lounge on the 39th floor for drinks and snacks (hummus and shrimp cocktail). The lounge provides a great view of the city which was a nice wrap-up to the trip.

The flight home was uneventful, although neither of us slept much. We crawled into bed once we got home, for several hours of sleep.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

San Francisco: Day 5

Today we headed to Chinatown. Amy had two goals in mind - Dim Sum and fans. First stop was Dim Sum which we had at a small hole in the wall place called Hang Ah Tearoom. To get there you walk up a very steep hill. There were a couple of times during the climb when I was convinced that this was not worth it. I was proven wrong. The food was fabulous. Because it was only the two of us we weren't able to sample too many dishes (plans are in the works for a Dim Sum excursion in Boston in the not too distant future). We had sticky rice rolls, shrimp rolls, pot stickers, steamed pork buns, sesame balls, and bok choy. The pot stickers were the best I think I've ever had. Everything was very tasty and was brought to the table steaming hot.


We followed the meal up with wandering through Chinatown, stopping in whichever stores caught our eye. Amy was in search of cheap fans - paper and wooden. She had three she got when we were in San Francisco in 1996 and they have been loved nearly to death. At one time while stuck in a hideously long airport security line she was offered $20, and then bid up to $30, for her $1 fan (she did not sell). Today's goal was 3 or 4 more fans. In the course of our travels we found the fans (top price was $.79 for the paper ones) and a few other trinkets.

The surprise of the day was hearing a voice say "I know you from Watertown". We turned around to discover our old pal, Dana, standing on the sidewalk next to us. Neither of us had recognized him, but he recognized me. We were all active in GLOW (Gays and Lesbians of Watertown) which was a neighborhood potluck group centered in Watertown, Massachusetts back in the late 80s and early 90s. The funny part is he still lives in Massachusetts, though it's been years since we saw him.

Chinese New Year was a few weeks ago and the celebrations are continuing. While we were in Chinatown our attention was captured by the sound of drums and firecrackers. Two different troops of boys/young men were parading through the streets with a lion each. Every few stores they would stop while the lion danced and bowed before the store then entered briefly. Before moving on a string of fireworks would be set off. Each troop included several bright flags as well.


With our goals satisfied we head back toward the hotel. We stopped briefly in Union Square to rest our legs and have a drink of water, and made a brief stop on Maiden Lane to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright building there. As soon as we entered the lane I knew which building it was. It is distinctly a Wright design, not to mention that it stands out among the more traditional buildings on that block.

After a quick stop at Citizen Cupcake for a treat we headed back to our room for a short break. I decided that icing my knee was in order (all the walking has made it quite sore) and ended up falling asleep. After a short nap I was quite refreshed. Amy was reading and really didn't mind the break either.

Our evening entertainment included a trolley ride to the Castro. We walked around to soak in the atmosphere, which was loud, slightly raucous and primarily male, stopping into a few shops along the way, including the HRC store. (For those who may not know the Human Rights Campaign is an organization the works for LGBT rights. It was founded in 1980 to counter the efforts of the Moral Majority.) We then headed to Catch for dinner. Dinner was superb. The flavors in each item blended perfectly, Amy's crab appetizer was particularly well balanced. Portions were reasonably sized, the ambiance was pleasant and the service was attentive without being intrusive.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

San Francisco: Day 4

Yesterday we ventured out for breakfast, to Mel's Drive-in just around the corner from our hotel. Mel's advertises itself as the place where "American Graffiti" was filmed, however they have several locations and the location near the hotel is decidedly not a drive-in - it's mid-block in an area of office buildings. The food was quite nice though and our window seat allowed us to people watch while we ate.

After breakfast we headed down Market Street toward the waterfront on foot. In our various excursions we had noticed quite a few buildings with interesting architectural details and I wanted to capture some photos.
This building is near the corner of Fourth and Market. The streets coming into Market here do not meet it at 90 degrees, so there are quite a few buildings which come to a point. This one is almost a triangle. I love the way that from this perspective it looks like it's only a facade.

old and new
There are quite a few modern buildings mixed in with the older ones. I was drawn initially to the older building in this photo mostly because of the way it's shape changes on the upper floors. I do like the contrast between it and the newer building though.

acorn detail
Acorn and leaf detail from another building.

This address on one of the more modern buildings caught my eye because of the angle. We've seen several buildings where a fair amount of thought has gone into the address markings.

Ferry Building
This is the tower of the Ferry Building which sits at the waterfront at the end of Market Street (although there is a park between the end of Market and the building). Our intent had been to hop on the trolley when we got tired but we walked the eight blocks there. Incidentally in the park across the street I had the opportunity/need to try out the public toilets. These are kiosks scattered around the city. They are most definitely public toilets, but they are clean - an automatic cleaning cycle runs everytime the toilet is used - free, and in this case there when I needed it.

After checking out the wares at the vendor tents in the park - favorites were really cool turned bowls, and intricately carved wooden zipper pulls - we headed into the Ferry Building. We had to cross the trolley lines to get there where we were introduced to a new type of crosswalk sign. Instead of the usual red hand/white walking person this one displays the image of the front of a trolley car so you know that a train is coming. Inside the Ferry Building are several dozen food related shops and a couple of restaurants. There were places specializing in mushrooms, olive oil, organic produce and sweets. We chose a treat from a patisserie which we enjoyed sitting by the water.

Bay Bridge
View of the Bay Bridge from the Ferry Building.

From there we walked a little further to a pedestrian pier which I wanted to immortalize. I would have loved to get a picture of it completely empty of people, but for that would have taken a lot more paperwork that I was interested in doing. By being patient I was able to get this shot with the people mostly at the far end.

From there we squeezed into a trolley. After a quick stop at Pier 39 for lunch it was off to the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum. We didn't have a long time for our visit there, but we had a lot of fun with the exhibits. Amy braved the blind maze - you put your hand through a curtain and try to run a finger from one end of the maze to the other without looking. She spent quite a while on it without success. I finally came to her rescue and verbally guided her (not particularly well) to the end. Another favorite was the ice crystal station. This has a piece of glass (might be plastic) and a cooling mechanism. You flood the glass with water to melt any existing ice crystals. Then you wait patiently while looking through polarized magnifying glasses. It's fascinating to watch the crystals grow.
ice crystals

Once we were ushered out of the museum we found out way to a bus stop, not an easy task (we'd hitched a ride there on a tour bus - the tour the previous day was a hop off/hop on one with tickets good for 2 days). Once back near Fishermans Wharf we caught a cable car back to Market Street. By then it was getting both dark and cold so we joined the hoards in the enclosed portion of the car.

We closed out the night with room service and a movie ("Enchanted" - cute and fluffy).

Friday, February 15, 2008

San Francisco: Day 3

I was up to watch the sunrise this morning, although this is not as big a feat as it might seem since the sun doesn't come up until about 7.

After breakfast we headed to Union Square where we hopped on an open top double-decker bus for a city tour. We had the top level of the bus almost to ourselves. The tour took us through the city, past the gates to China Town, down along the Embarcadero, past Fishermans Wharf, and the Presidio, and over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate

Upon our return to the city the tour continued through the area around Alamo Park, and the Painted Ladies, and down into the City Hall area. San Francisco's City Hall is an impressive Beaux Arts style building, much more attractive than Boston's bunker of a city hall. The area surrounding City Hall includes several other Beaux Arts style buildings. From there we traveled up Market to the area known as Soma (South of Market) where our hotel was a featured part of the tour. And finally back to Union Square.

We followed up the tour with a short shopping excursion to Macy's. This was necessary because the weather reports before we left home called for colder weather than we are experiencing and Amy didn't pack enough short sleeved shirts. After procuring several shirts, including one for me, we headed off in search of lunch. Lunch was procured at Max's, where we enjoyed tasty sandwiches and salad.

Once we were done with lunch we climbed a few blocks and explored the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design. It's a small museum. Favorite pieces were a bench made out of oak (I'm a sucker for wood) which was a once hefty and delicate, some really elegant hand blown glasses, a table with legs that Amy described as a "three legged flamingo" and a bench which looked like squared off bright cannolis.

On our way back to the hotel we got to watch the "turning of the cable car". When the cable car reaches the end of the line, it is turned by hand on the round table before heading back on it's return trip.
Cable Car Push

We had planned to head over to the SF Museum of Modern Art after a brief stop in our room. But a need for a little rest over took that plan. A few hours later we headed out for a dinner at Long Life Noodles in the Metreon. It was a very nice dinner. The food was tasty with huge portions. We had, wisely as it turned out, decided to share a couple of things. Even so we did not come close to finishing it all.

We rounded out our Valentine's Day at the movies where we saw "National Treasure: Book of Secrets". It's a fun movie that picks up nicely on the original, although it doesn't have the same level of intensity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

San Francisco: Day 2

After many hours of sleep last night, we spent a little time planning before heading off to breakfast. We ate in the hotel, lots of really good, fresh fruit and other taste treats. Then it was off to Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.

At the suggestion of the concierge, we boarded the trolley for the trip. The trolley is part of the SF Municipal Railway. The cars are vintage trolley cars, restored and lovingly maintained. You can read all about them here.

Our first adventure of the day, besides the trolley ride, was a bay tour. The boat headed out past the sea lions, who took up residence back in 1990 and were saved from being run off by the fact that the tourists (that would be us) love them. Once out into the bay the boat headed for the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate

From there the boat circled around Alcatraz, before heading back in.

Once we were back on dry land we wandered down Pier 39. We stuck our heads into a couple of the shops, acquired a small amount of salt water taffy, and watched the carousel. After lunch we stopped in at the Aquarium of the Bay. It's a nice little aquarium. We particularly enjoyed the Under the Bay exhibit. The path takes you through tubes that allow you to view the sea creatures from below. Amy's favorite part was when a school of fish passed overhead.

Next we wandered a little further down the Embarcadero before heading back to the hotel. After a short rest, we walked to Belden Place for dinner. After checking out the menus for several of the restaurants, we settled on B44, specializing in Catalan cuisine. We can recommend it highly. Not only was Amy's paella tasty and perfectly prepared, but my chicken was also very good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

San Francisco: Day 1

We have arrived safe and sound in San Francisco. The day started early with an uneventful ride to the airport in rush hour traffic, courtesy of a local van service. After check in and security we had a leisurely breakfast at the gate while we waited for the flight to board.

The plane wasn't full so we were able to get a row by ourselves. JetBlue provides seat back entertainment systems which show tv, movies and play satellite radio. We mostly watched TV, although I watched "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium", which was not without difficulty since the screen at my seat flipped off partway through. I was able to finish watching the movie on the screen for the empty seat. It's a decent movie although I wouldn't rush out to see it.

The trip into the hotel was also uneventful. We have a lovely corner room on the 24th floor. We're staying near the Moscone Center. From the room we can see just a smidge of the Bay Bridge, AT&T Park (home of the Giants), the park in front of the Moscone Center and the bay.

Nothing big happening tonight - we had a quiet dinner in the hotel, are going to try out the pool and then we'll be crashing early (or late depending on your perspective).

Here's a shot (through the airplane window) as we descended to the San Francisco airport.
Looking Down

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weston Ski Track Snowshoe

Our snow pack is pretty small, about 2 inches or so. Despite this I pulled out the snowshoes yesterday and headed to the Weston Ski Track (aka the Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course). Because the snow pack is so small the snowshoes were not really critical, although they did help on the icy spots. They do make snow at the Ski Track, but it is on a limited section and that was being used for a children's race. So I headed to the other side of the Charles River which is the 16th, 17th and 18th holes of the course.

The day started out chilly (34 degrees) and grey. Over the course of the hour and a half that I spent walking the sun came out with a force. When I got back to the car the temperature was 47.

For the most part I had the trail to myself. I was joined briefly by a family (2 adults and a pre-teen) and their 2 dogs. One of the dogs in particular was hiving a great time frolicking in the snow. Toward the end of the walk another couple passed by with their dogs. Other than that it was just me, the snow, the ice and the river.

There weren't many critters around but I did see some small birds, including a few red-winged blackbirds, a couple of camera shy swans, and a few geese, oh and several dogs (see above).

This trek was less about the snowshoeing and more about getting outside with my camera. It was a slow walk with lots of stops to shoot pictures. I took about 100 shots (gotta love digital photography). Below is a sample. You can see more here.

Looking through the railing of the bridge over the Charles.

Charles River

Frozen Leaves and Grass
This section of the golf course sits very close to the water level of the river.
Clearly it had flooded during some of the rain we've had recently.

I was fascinated by the patterns in this tree.

All in all it was a lot of fun, although I really would like more snow. So, tell the snow gods to quit dumping on Maria, who is sick of snow, and give us some. Well not Tuesday or next Sunday so we don't have to deal with airport delays.

Nature: Crash

If you get a chance watch the episode entitled "Crash" on PBS show Nature. It's showing on WGBH tonight at 8pm. My friend Julie worked as an editor on this episode.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Shutterday: You Light Up My Life

Icicle lights masquerading as a chili pepper bundle.
(I know there's a word for that but I can't figure out what it is.)
Update - my friend, Becky, came to my rescue the term I was looking for was chili ristra.

See more Shutterday here.

The Weird Thing about Flickr

I just finished uploading yesterday's batch of pictures to flickr. By the time I had them uploaded and descriptions added to a couple (there were 10 total) one of them had already been viewed 3 times, and had a comment! It always startles me when people look at my pictures before I finish loading them.

Friday, February 08, 2008

PhotoFriday: What Is It?

This is a detail from a larger picture of an object I'm sure most of you would immediately recognize.

See more PhotoFriday here.

To see if you've guessed correctly click here. My sister-out-law, Shelley, has a story about this item here. And while you're at it check this out to see Shelley's latest endeavor.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

PhotoSharks: Sunny

There hasn't been a lot of sun around here lately, but I captured this last Saturday morning.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Twenty-Five Years

A portion of the bouquet I got from Amy Monday night.

Twenty-five years ago I took the GRE exam. I know what you're thinking - how the devil does she remember that? Well, that day turned out to be a turning point in my life, though not in the way you might think.

The day started with the GRE, which I took at MIT. I don't remember much about the test itself, though I did score fairly well including acing the logic portion scoring 800. I didn't take a subject exam so I was done at noon. My two best friends, Amy and T, met me and we spent the rest of the day playing. We went to the Children's Museum, had dinner out, and took in a movie (I don't remember which movie).

T retired early, victim of a migraine. Amy and I stayed up all night talking, sitting close together. Well, mostly we talked. At some point in the wee hours of the morning we shared a very light kiss. Neither of us expected it, and though I initially wanted to run away, Amy wouldn't let me (sometimes her stubborn streak is a good thing).

Twenty-five years have passed since that day. We still talk late into the night, and we still kiss, and we are still very much in love. And each year we celebrate the day that changed our lives. (It was also the night when "it's not morning till you get up" was born.)

Our celebration has just begun. After work yesterday we went out for a wonderful leisurely dinner at 51 Lincoln in Newton. The food was yummy. The company was superb. Next week we head to San Francisco to celebrate.

Thursday Challenge: Emotion

N was unhappy about being run over by the toy truck.

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Lensday: Travel

Subway Train
Redline T train crossing the Longfellow Bridge.

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