Saturday, January 28, 2006

A lazy Saturday...

Well, the rains have returned, so a quiet evening at home in front of the fire is in order. We made great progress on our painting today...and hopefully, I'll have some FINAL shots to post tomorrow. The new room color is quite a striking difference from the previous blah. Of course, what I'm REALLY ready to be done with is spotting--cloudy days make for poor lighting, which makes it very very tough to find all of the spots where the roller missed. AAARGH. Time to move the furniture back in!

In the meantime, I'm having fun playing with my new iPod, which Jeff gave me for Christmas. I uploaded my first CD from my collection--a Pink Floyd CD, which happens to be the first band I bought when I got my very first CD player in college. Many thanks to my friend Keith for enlightening me :)

I also bought my first music video on iTunes. Now THIS is a kick ass feature. I bought U2's City of Blinding Lights. I also downloaded my first podcast from my all-time favorite radio show, The Don and Mike Show. I've listened to these guys for 15 years...and now they can entertain me on long flights.

The bottom line is that I'm happy to have joined everyone in the 21st century.

Of course, I'm having to work around Buster, who has decided that I make the best bed on a rainy day. He doesn't see to care about my iPod.

Friday, January 27, 2006

On the road again...

Well, as promised, here are a few pictures from this past week. I started the week with a crack-of-dawn flight to Colorado Springs. On top of traveling with and working with some of my closest coworkers, a nice perk was a top-floor view of the Rockies including Pikes Peak. This particular photo was taken at dawn.

When our plane took off on Tuesday afternoon, it did a hard bank for 30-60 seconds. The late day lighting was really quite dramatic. One odd feature I noticed is what appears to be the Colorado version of the Great Pyramids going up (second picture below).

Later in the week, I flew to Orange County for a client meeting. I won't even go into my frustrations with LA traffic, because I'm determined to keep this blog happy :) But I did end up at the Hilton directly across from Disneyland, and my Hilton Honors status got me a fine room overlooking the park. So, what a surprise when in the morning I looked out over the California Adventure portion of the park to see a replica of the Palace of Fine Arts, a San Francisco landmark. You can see it below--the domed terra cotta building.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm befuddled...

I'm in between business trips and should have some pictures posted from both Colorado Springs and LA later this week. In the meantime, I found two snippets in the paper today that I just HAD to share.

It would seem that our San Francisco supervisors really do have too much time on their hands. In the past, they have passed all sorts of measures that cannot legally be enforced, but seem to make someone happy.

The latest attempted "resolution" is from the supervisor representing District 11, an odd little area on the southern edge of the City. The resolution recommended that the City adopt the Seattle Seahawks as its official team for the duration of the NFL playoffs. Rather than kill the resolution, the Supervisors referred it to committee.



Moving on, I also learned that a naked man was killed Tuesday morning at 2am while running down I-280 in the City.

What a town.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend warrior update...

Jeff and I worked on our painting today. The previous owners inexplicable peach-ish color and mysterious stains along the baseboards are FINALLY GONE! Tomorrow, the color goes up...Carrington Beige to make all of our blue accents pop.

But in the spirit of being Mr. Helper, I thought I would throw out an inspiration picture from our visit to the Vatican Museum. I thought Jeff might appreciate that I'm participating in the design process. :) One change I might recommend--perhaps swap out the Virgin Mary with a statue of David. Otherwise, this understated room is sooooo us!

More weather (stop me now)...

This morning, San Francisco was enveloped in one of our fog/low cloud blankets. Perfect weather to light the fireplace. The skies cleared up in the afternoon, and we had a beautiful afternoon for painting (more on that in a bit).

Now, as I glance back over my last few postings, I noted that my blog has become The Weather Channel. So, to break myself of that habit and add some visual interest, I worked on a few images from Venice that I have not shown before.

The first image is just a random, typical Venetian alley. The second was taken inside Santa Maria della Salute. The third is of the Grand Canal.

By the way, just a curious I was spell checking this entry, Blogger failed to recognize the word "blog" (above) in its dictionary. It recommended "blows" as one of the replacements. Oh, and Blogger didn't recognize "Blogger" in this addendum. How bizarre.

Friday, January 20, 2006

One man's eyesore...

The break in our winter rain has brought in some cool sunrises and sunsets. Tonight's sky is filled with scattered strings of high clouds, which are picking up hints of the setting sun. A really nice bookend to my peaceful morning in the park. Not a bad day at all!

Oh, and happy birthday, my dear Jeff. :)

Yoda gets up at 7...

I stopped by the "Perk Presidio" coffee shop this morning on my way to a briefing with the Presidio Trust (the Federal organization that runs the Presidio). At 6:55, the grounds of the Letterman Digital Arts Center (aka, Lucasfilm HQ) are silent. I was clearly the first customer of the day, so I went into Chatty John mode. Anyhow, my friendly latte maker asked me if I was a Lucas employee...and I thought, "Yeah, I could work in a park!"

If nothing else, it was clear to me that creative types just don't get to work before 7am. The Letterman campus was empty...and peaceful. Heck, the Yoda fountain here didn't turn on until 7.

But I will say that this morning tranquility emphasized how Lucas, the Presidio Trust, and their developer did a really really nice job creating this campus within the Presidio. And for the record, the rest of the Presidio is awesome as well.

I am curious, however, how much the Lucas folks pay for THEIR latte!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Its raining again...

Well, it WAS raining last night and this morning. One of those wind-driven heavy storms that we get in the winter. But by the time I made it into the office it was clear and sunny.

Anyhow, it reminded me how much I love rain and have spent the past few years trying to take pictures of rain in different ways. This photo is from last night. Kinda fun, I think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Windmills in the park...

Golden Gate Park was once nothing more than a bunch of sand dunes and native scrub. But in 1870, the City ousted some squatters and set aside a 3 mile by 1/2 mile swath for the City's largest park. In 1902 and 1905, two Dutch windmills were erected at the Ocean end of the park to provide irrigation for the park.

This is a picture I took during one of bike rides through the park. This is the first of the two windmills to be refurbished. It towers above the surrounding trees.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fleeting sunrise...

I grabbed a couple of shots this morning just as the sun broke through the clouds and the sky lit up. This is the morning view to the southeast from our living room. I snapped these, went back to the bedroom to finish getting ready for work, and not five minutes later, the sky was dull and gray again. This is why I try and carry a camera with me at all times. You just never know what you will see in the course of a day.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Weekend warriors...

Our project for the weekend (really two weekends...hopefully) was to prep the master bedroom for painting. This is not a big room, but it took quite some time just to sand down the over-textured walls. Plus, our home was built in the 30's and some of the walls really show what 70+ years of settling can do to plaster.

But it did give us the excuse to buy a shop vac! So, hopefully, we'll have some AFTER pictures to post by next weekend.

Photos, chili, and sushi...

On Saturday, my photo photo class convened at our instructor's home in Sacramento. Our evening menu was a scrumptuous homemade chili and a very nice sushi platter from a local restaurant. A few glasses of red wine to bring the flavors together--including the competing chili powder and wasabi spices. The meal (and company) made the 90-mile drive worthwhile.

After dinner, we all showed images from our latest assignment, which was to take five photographs that were totally unrelated. It may sound easy, but its a challenge when you train yourself to look for themes in your work. Anyhow, my classmates (as always) impressed me with their creativity.

Here are my five.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The cattle car...

I just love this painting. It really does capture that feeling of the "business travel fog". Below are a couple of my "classic" business travel images that I've had in some shows.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Like a cat purring on a window sill...

A nice quick trip to Seattle last night and today for work. Any trip to Seattle is an excuse to hit Two Bells Tavern with my dear dear friend Jeff. This has been our favorite burger joint for several years running--an amazing blue burger for me please--and of course gooey cheese bread to start! Check this small Belltown neighborhood establishment out if you're downtown for lunch or dinner.

Here are a couple of quick pictures from the trip. Some nighttime views from my room at the Westin (the heavenly bed really is nice :), and some fun shots from the airplane.

This last shot is what happens when Photoshop takes control. Just fun.

Oh, and the cat purring quote. That's from a Seattle radio station bumper referencing how soothing its music made me laugh out loud. Seattle was in Day 22 of straight rain days, so the laughter was nice.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"Andre Agassi Penny Slots Are Here!"...

I was in Las Vegas for two days this week to attend a government conference held in conjunction with the enormous International Consumer Electronics Show. The government conference was really quite impressive for its speakers--in the government realm, this combination of congressmen, political appointees, and top government CIOs was top notch.

One thing I learned is that politicians are funnier and tell better stories than the rest of us--its just a gift. I have evidence. The 5 politicians I heard, told fascinating well-spun tales and funny jokes--and these are politicians with very different political views than mine. From the non-politicians, I heard jokes about (and I'm not making this up): a laptop versus lap dance joke, a condom and aspirin joke, and a joke about the nationality of the 9/11 hijackers. Amazing.

But hey, maybe these folks thought they were at the Adult Entertainment Expo, which was also in town.

Anyhow, I did have a good conference, learned quite a bit, and had some time to walk a bit in Las Vegas. Although, there is a definite downside to being in Las Vegas by take pictures like the one below while you are waiting for your food!

I stayed at Caesars Palace for the first time. A beautiful hotel, and nicely situated at the middle of the Strip. Convenient for dropping by the Bellagio to watch the fountains. My room was OK...a sideways view of the strip AND the roof of the casino (check out the foreground in the sunrise picture below).

I have never been to the Consumer Electronics Show, and it is NOTHING like any show I have visited below. The sheer scale is magnificent. I wish I had had more time to explore--I only had a couple of hours in the main show after our conference ended. I did find a few things I would LOVE to buy :)

Living out of a suitcase...

There are words that stress even the toughest of business travelers. This week, on my way to Las Vegas to attend the CES Government 2006 conference, I heard "United Airlines is experiencing system-wide computer failures. There will be delays." Followed very shortly by "For those of you traveling to Las Vegas, you plane is here. Unfortunately, you pilot and crew will not be here until 7:15." [for my 6:45 flight] Then "You pilot and crew will not be here until 7:55." Followed closely by "We found a crew that will be here at 7:15. Your pilots will arrive at 7:50."

We didn't leave until 8:30. Sigh.

BUT, I did get to watch the ULTIMATE attempt to avoid checking luggage. There was a couple behind me on the plane who simply placed their two large bags in AISLE...and acted irritated when the flight attendant asked them to move them. Nice try :) I tried to take a picture, but there wasn't enough cabin lighting for my Treo.

That scene made my evening though.

The Chinese really DO make everything...

The argument for shopping at Target and Wal-Mart and the other Chinese outlets is that your dollar goes further. Hard working Americans can pay less for the basics AND get a touch of style at the same time. I'm all for that! But the reality (in my humble opinion) is that people don't spend LESS at these stores, they just buy more items for the same amount. And what do they spend their savings on? Santa outfits for their dogs, apparently. No need to save THAT money for a rainy day.

Night snow...

I tried to post this picture along with the other Muskegon images, but Blogger exerted some sort of artificial intelligence editorial control and refused to load this properly. Anyhow, I think I have prevailed (finally).

This image is from Muskegon, the night we had that beautiful wet overnight snow.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A week in Muskegon...

Jeff and I spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Muskegon with his family. For those of you who don’t know where Muskegon is, I’ve posted a “handy” (I’m a funny man today) homemade map below. Oh those Michiganders…they are quite clever!

Like most winter visits in the U.S. that aren’t to Florida, Hawaii, or a mountain ski town, our visit was spent mostly indoors. The weather was cold, but not freezing cold. Some rain, but nothing like we left behind in SF. And one shot of harmless overnight snow to give me some photo variety.

The weather provided us with plenty of quality time with the family--particularly Jeff’s young niece and nephews. Since we only visit Michigan every six months, the kids seem to grow up ultra-fast. But boy does Christmas feel different with kids around. (I know…I think I’m the LAST person to figure this out :)

Food a-plenty, of course, since Jeff’s mom loves to cook for crowded tables. Two fun additions this Christmas. My mother sent us sweet potato biscuits and country ham from Edwards of Surrey, VA. (My grandmother “discovered” these last Christmas, and they are AMAZING.) And one afternoon, while we were out, Jeff’s dad introduced me to the “G&L Greek Chili Dog”—YUM!

I did get out and walk a bit with my camera in tow. Lake Muskegon was partially frozen, so I got a few nice shots of the ice and gray-ness of it all.

We watched several movies (quality down time). We actually went to a theatre to see the Narnia flick—this was the first time Jeff and I had been in a movie theatre in two years…I think we may just stick to Netflix. On DVD, we watched Madagascar, some Ab Fab episodes, Polar Express (the youngest nephew’s favorite), and Christmas Vacation (my perennial favorite Christmas movie).

We managed to find time for a bit of culture amidst our pop culture. We visited the Hackley and Hume historic homes, which were decorated in a style typical of their era. These homes were built by two business partners around the turn of the century and are little gems. Jeff’s dad took me to see an Edward Weston photography exhibit at the Hackley Art Museum. (Look for this fantastic retrospective to come to your town…99-pictures…well worth the price of admission, which was only $4 in Muskegon.) Next door, we visited the Hackley Library (another grand historic building).

All in all, a wonderful family visit and a VERY nice Christmas.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mother Nature is smiling...

Jeff and I are back from Michigan, so expect some catch-up entries over the next several days as we download pictures and get settled. Our travels were safe and relaxing, and I'm all set to spend the next few weeks formulating well-crafted resolutions to break. (I've systematically broken most of my favorites, so if you have any suggestions of good breakable resolutions, please send along.)

I wanted to report that in spite of the storms and record rainfall here in Northern California, our house is standing and dry, our garden is wind-swept but green, and the cats have not had to learn to swim. In fact, the skies cleared for us as we landed, and we actually saw sun beams for a few minutes. So, all in all, we timed that just right.

I expected nasty rain or slosh or something on our drive from Muskegon to Chicago for our flight yesterday, but it was clear sailing. The rain started right after we arrived at the airport, and delayed us a bit but nothing unusual.

Even the weather in Muskegon worked out well. Yeah, the skies were gray, but we had a couple of inches of wet snow on Wednesday or Thursday night--just enough to satisfy MY snow fix, but not enough to make the roads bad for everyone else. Perfect.

Happy New Year everyone.