Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cheez-Its versus Chocolate Chip Cookies...

I took a late afternoon flight to Denver today. I have a meeting bright and early tomorrow and zip...I'll be back home for a late dinner tomorrow.

So, just for kicks, I snapped a couple of pictures during the flight. I know there are a few window glares here and there, but I thought they were fun enough to share. Plus, any image that reminds me of home is worth reflecting on :)

Also, if you have never been to Denver International Airport, then you're missing on of the most interesting main terminals in the US. The entire roof of the main terminal is fashioned from a dozen-or-so tent-like spikes that resemble snow-capped mountains on the horizon. It was nighttime when I left the airport, so I couldn't grab a shot back.

One odd thing about this airport is that is SOOOOOOOOO far from civilization. The airport is now about 10 years old, and it still stands alone out in the prairie. (People used to say that Washington Dulles was out in the middle of nowhere, so perhaps civilization is coming.)

Oh yes. About those Cheez-Its. It seems that this is Embassy Suites' response to Doubletree's chocolate chip cookies. Uh, I hope this is just a test site. Give me a warm cookie any day!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The reunion episode...

Every now and then, the fans prevail and pull a show from cancellation. So a la Family Guy, we have the return of Elena #1 in tonight's very special episode where the evil corporations and predatory men close in on our heroine. I have clipped judiciously...she was rambling a bit.

My dear. I sincerely apologize before you. I am guilty that I do not write to you the letter. I am so sorry. You understand my honey? The standard of life constantly rises and the salary remains same. I already whole year try to find to myself new good work. But I am trapped with failure. I and my girlfriend wanted to open the business. But while at us it turns out nothing. We have economic education and we understand as it is necessary to make business. The big seed capital is necessary. But communicating with you I feel better. I shall speak you the truth. At first I simply wanted to have the friend from other country. I did not trust that foreign men others. I thought that all men identical as our Russian. They try to have relations with women only to lie in bed. I understand that the majority of men want to get acquainted with me then to drag me in bed. It bothered for me. I not a simple doll. Now I was convinced that you not such as Russian men. You have soul and respect for the person. Fairly to tell I have attachment to you and I am ready to be your wife. But the life builds on my way of a barrier. While I have no opportunity to arrive to you. I cannot save the sufficient sum of money for trip. I am sorry my honey. I shall wait for your letters knowing that it lifts my mood.
This has brightened an otherwise gray, foggy day. Frankly, I'm dragging this morning, because the Claritin I took last night made it very hard to sleep. This is the Claritin D, and while it does an amazing job clearing my nasal passages, it fills my head with random crazy dreams. Really. I have the oddest, fitfull nights on Claritin. Today, I dreamt about President Bush imitating Dana Carvey imitating Bush Sr. Where THAT dream came from, I may never know.

So, we can talk about Elena, or we can read about existential Claritin experiences. Or, better yet, we can look at a photo from Venice.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ft. Mason Photo Show...

On May 12th and 13th, I am participating in my 10th photo show with my Portfolio classmates at Ft. Mason. Our spring shows are extra special, because they are just with members of my Portfolio class...a group that morphs slowly over time, but is always a close knit group. Most of these folks have done several shows with me.

This spring, our show is called "Natural Acts". I've decided to hang some of the industrial series that I've been working on. You'll probably recognize these two samples from previous posts.

So, if you're in SF on the evening of May 12th (6-9) or during the day on the 13th (10-5), then drop by the Ft. Mason Center, Building B, Room 106.

Delivery Status Notification (Failure)...

Its been over a week now since Elena #1 or #2 have written. So, out of curiosity, I wrote a short "Hi" note to see if I could trigger something new. Well, Elena #2 no longer exists. I feel strangely abandoned!

Is this how NBC felt when Friends went off the air?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

iPod iNgenius...

So yes, I've become an iPod fanatic, because frankly it has added a new distraction to some of the duller parts of my life: commuting, flights, airports, expense reports. Well that, and that it has allowed me to dust off parts of my CD collection that I haven't listened to in the Great State of California.

But let's set the record straight: the iPod's shuffle algorithm is NOT random. No way. I don't care what Apple says. I have noticed that the same bands come up over and over...and I'm not sure this is a bad thing.

Being an inquisitive one, I did today's equivalent of "in-depth research"; I did a Google search.

I didn't find anything to substantiate my claim...although there are several pages dedicated to this topic, including lots of denials from Apple. Personally, I think that Apple should tout this "smart shuffle". I think that it makes "random" more like how a DJ would program an iPod.

Let's take my current shuffle session. I have 1153 songs today. About 30 of them are from Yes. I have heard 3 in the past hour. And honestly, every 5 songs since I have owned this iPod HAS TO BE from U2. (Tell me that Apple doesn't favor U2.)

Anyhow, I think that the iPod is 1) clustering songs as it randomly selects artists, 2) favoring newly added items, and 3) repeating recently played items. This is smart programming, and I love it.

But, I can't prove it and I'm rambling and you really came to this blog to see pictures. Tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunshine and lollypops...

What a nice weekend. We spent it primarily enjoying the sunshine in the garden, although we did get out for a couple of nice long drives. Our garden activities were primarily spring prunings, repotting, and fertilizing. Temperatures haven't turned warm yet, so most of our plants are still holding out for the real deal.

Friday night, we went out with Chris to one of our favorite restaurants: Lime in the Castro. Fun music, cool ambiance, very fine mojitos, and mini-hamburgers. Oh, and mini-ice cream cookies for desert! Last night, we all went out to El Torreador in West Portal--one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.

And one other fun photo...something you just don't see every day.

[Oh, by the way...there were no lollypops. Just teasing.]

Saturday, April 22, 2006


At work yesterday, I read the recent press release from the White House announcing the nomination of a new ambassador to Lithuania (on the same page as a change at one of my yes, it was work.) Anyhow, the official title of the position is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Lithuania.

OK, I admit that I had to look that up. Plenipotentiary refers to "a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact business". Makes sense, but hard to put on a business card!

Hmmm, maybe he slips it in at parties to get chicks :)

[For the record, blogger spellcheck (which still thinks 'blogger' should be 'blocker') had no problem with Plenipotentiary.]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Little bits of goodness...

I could easily have spread this entry over five updates, but out of kindness, I'm cramming all these juicy bits into one overstuffed uber-entry! Trust me...these are all worth wading through. Consider these titles to whet your appetite:

1. Streets of Philadelphia...
2. Dirty talk in the airport
3. I'm sure that I'm carrying the bird flu...
4. Elena #1 returns...
5. Benjamin Franklin kicks ass...

So first, we begin with my warm afternoon stroll through Independence National Park yesterday afternoon. My coworker Jen and I had a couple of hours to kill before our flight home, so we took a stroll in the 80-degree sunshine.

Truly a lovely day to see the the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and various other colonial buildings. Now, I do love that period of American history, but it does make you chuckle to visit buildings "OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS OLD" so soon after visiting Rome and its 2000-year old structures. Oh, but I'm not here to pick.

Although, yes, I will.

So, Benjamin Franklin's final home a couple of blocks from Independence Hall was torn down after his death. Now, you can "peer underground" at the bricks that were once his house. Nice try, but the Coliseum is still standing.

Oh, but here is the brick hole where Franklin's bathwater and toilet used to drain.

So, from Independence Park, I took a short cab ride to the airport, where I grabbed a bite at the TGIFridays. It was there that I was reminded how good my job is and why I could never be a traveling salesman. Seated next to me were two middle-aged men and a young women who clearly worked in sales for the same company. One of the men (clearly with no brain-to-mouth filter) made two classic conversational observations:

"If I could do what a dog can do, I wouldn't be married." and "This store had some of the nastiest magazines. Stuff like 'Hemaphrodites' and 'Women Over 40'."
Let me remind you that he was talking with a female coworker, and that nobody at the table was under 40. Can you just imagine this guy trying to charm his way to closing a sale?

On to item #3...the bird flu. I would just like to state that for the entire flight home, the woman to my left and the two men across the aisle to my right were all sneezing. I'm doomed.

Jumping to Elena...Elena #1 to be precise. Yes, she wrote back. Jealousy perhaps? Anyhow, her storyline is advancing nicely, and for the first time we hear about sending money!! This is a good one:

My dear and love. Today I woke up with fine mood. Do you know why? Since that time when I got acquainted with you I thank destiny. I think that soon we shall together. The visa will be given to me for the period of 3 months. Do you you imagine? We can see 3 months each other and feel each other. It as in dream. Yesterday I and my girlfriend sat counted charges which will be for trip to you my honey. It approximately 1200 US dollars. I have available 330 dollars. Yesterday I could agree with the chief on work that he gave out to meholiday for 3 months then when I shall ask him. All goes well. It pleases me. ... I am glad that I have an opportunity to devote the life to the fine person as you my dear. I love you and this finest feeling. I can not wait our meeting.
Signed: "Your beauty".


And finally, I leave you with the best tourist trinket ever: the Benjamin Franklin action figure! It capped off a fine week.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Its good to have a backup plan...

First of all, let me say that my trip to Philadelphia has been wonderful so far. My very favorite colleagues. Amazing spring weather. Flowers in bloom. Wonderful food. And, our meeting is just two blocks from Independence Hall. In the scheme of business trips, this one is pretty nice.

But no pictures.

Anyhow, I do have an email from Elena #2. I don't know if its the same person writing, but this Elena sent blonde pictures, and the other brunette. It was a long email, so here are the highlights:

Hello my the new friend. I am glad to receive your letter. I am very happy that now I write you this letter. I want to speak much more about me. Ok??? My name is Elena. This very much widespread name in Russia. I was born and now I live in Russia. My city a name Kirov City. I very much love children but I have not children and I was never married. You probably want to know why I was not married??? In Russia it is a lot of men and they use many alcoholic drinks and want only sex. And I want to find the man of my dream and to create happy family. It is very difficult in Russia. Also I have overlooked to speak you that I do not drink and I do not smoke, but I do not mind if people have this hobbits. ... I hope that you will not ignore me and write to me and we shall learn each other better because I think from one letter we do not learn each other. I shall wait for yours the letter.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Coming in May: Elmo's World...

Yes friends, the billboards in Philadelphia are proclaiming the arrival of Elmo's World.

THAT is the highlight of my trip to Philadelphia today. I'm assuming the rest of the trip will turn up some interesting stories or photos.

In the is the carpet at Philadelphia's airport! Take that. That's how I felt about the airport this afternoon.

I mean frankly, there is nothing here to report yet. The flight was food makes me grumpy but its old news. My hotel room is normal...I'm like a kid that looks forward to Christmas only to get a sweater (a nice sweater...but just a sweater!).

The only item of note today was that I got an email at WORK from a mysterious Elena from Russia. MY Elena is now cheating on my alter ego...with me! How dare she. Here is what she wrote:

Hello!!! I am a 32 year old girl who loves life. I like to stay busy, always doing something. My favorite things ever include the sun, the water and the beach, art and music? I'm looking for someone who loves to have fun. Someone who can not only keep up with me, but who will challenge me. If you want to correspond with me and to learn more about me that write to me on my e-mail. Ok??? I shall wait for your letters. As soon as you will write to me that I shall send you my photos. Ok??? Your friend Elena.

Notice no accent in this one. Sigh. I fear she is gone.

Oh, and happy 100-year anniversary of the Great Quake. (For the record, Jeff and I own a home built on bedrock.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Weekend update...

Jeff and I had a fabulous Easter weekend...although somehow I gave him my cold. Let's ignore that for now. I bought him tulips to make up :)

Easter dinner on Sunday was a scrumptuous mixture of tradition and pantry. Ham plus a yummy mushroom risotto (bought in Siena last May), paired with comfort foods green bean casserole and cornbread muffins. Oh, and Jeff's favorite German chocolate cake...yum!!

The weekend was full of heavy downpours one minute, followed by blue cloudless skies. We even had some early morning hail Sunday morning. So, we ventured out on Sunday for a walk between showers. We went to a small park in Hunters Point. Heron's Head Park is a sliver of land that juts out into the Bay as a breakwater. The park is tucked between a PG&E power plant and a Port of San Francisco warehouse.

This park is popular with birders. So here, for my folks, is today's name-that-bird quiz!

Also, out and about on Sunday, I snapped this photo of the University of San Francisco's St. Ignatius Church. The sun had popped out and was shining off the gold cross on this spire. That and I liked the wispy clouds.

On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, we awoke to rain showers. So, I decided to take a drive and see what some of my favorite photo spots looked like in the rain. I found a few new areas...and an odd blue camper. You don't see THAT every day.

Friday, April 14, 2006

That was quick...

Sorry to report that the clouds and light scattered showers returned before I even headed to lunch. Mother Nature is such a tease.

For the record...

...its an absolutely stunningly beautiful morning in San Francisco.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

New for Spring...

The downside of my current "yes-iPod, no-magazine" travel habit is that during takeoff and landing, I'm forced to leaf through United's materials. Well, SkyMall didn't disappoint this time :)

I've figured out just why 'Elena' wants to visit me from Russia...she knows about the stuff in the in-flight SkyMall catalog. SkyMall is reinforcing the myth that wine (and vodka) flow freely in the streets. At least they do if you have a handy 'Fire Water Fire Hydrant!'.

Or, need that discrete little nip while you're golfing? How about the 'Designated Driver'?

Or, if you just can't be bothered by gimmicks and gadgets, just wear your booze. Try the fashionable 'Booze Belt'.

I didn't know that the average frequent flyer is an alcoholic...

...or a dog owner. Lots of doggy beds (and the aforementioned doggy stairs). But the 'Doggy Murphy Bed' wins best in show for this issue of SkyMall.

Oh yeah, the latest from 'Elena'. Slow news day!

Sorry my dear. I could not write to you the letter because I was on business trip. My chief forced me and some more person to go in the next city. There it was necessary to help with registration of the order for our firm. I had no time to write to you. I am so sorry. I hope you you do not take offence at me. How are you? I hope to see from you the letter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In and out of LA...

I did a quick day trip to LA today for a meeting. The flights were uneventful, except for being moved from the first row to the last row (next to the bathroom) to counterbalance front-weighted luggage.

But my flight was fine and I skipped out of SF before our daily rain showers began. Of course, this yin would eventually be yanged by having my return flight delayed. Once again, there is balance in the universe.

One unexpected highlight, however, was having lunch at the cafe in LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry. It happens to be just a few blocks away from the Civic Center in downtown LA. I captured a few quick shots to share.

On the way back to Burbank Airport (a.k.a. Bob Hope Airport), my co-worker Michele and I took a random loop to see if we could drive by the Hollywood sign. Well, good thing I snapped a couple of distance shots. We got a bit closer than this picture, but could never quite figure out where to go.

But there was no rain in we were happy :) Its the little things, really.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Elephant seals and snot...

Each year at this time, the beaches just north of San Simeon at Piedras Blancas are teaming with young male and female Elephant Seal pups. The come ashore by the thousands to molt. The youngest ones are learning to swim in the protected shallow waters.

Jeff and Matthew learned from a helpful Friend of the Elephant Seals that the full grown males weight around 5000 pounds and migrate along a 5000 mile route each year. Oh, and they will dive about 5000 feet down to feed. (They fast during the time while they are on the beach.)

Truly a sight to be seen...from upwind. At first glance, these pups definitely have the awwwww factor going for them. But closer inspection reveals snotty noses and belch-like sounds. Heh, we even caught one adventurous pup picking his nose :)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Latin for Buddy...

We took advantage of some rare sunshine this afternoon to add some new plants to the garden. I'm terrible at remembering the names of plants...fortunately, Jeff is much better. But today, I saved a couple of the plant names to show off. So, first off, an easy latin quiz for Buddy, a.k.a. Mr. Horticulture.

Here are three of several new plants. Let's letter them A, B, and C in order. Their latin names are in the following list:
  1. Juncas spiralis
  2. Sedum album athoum
  3. Acorus gramineus ogon

Answers at the end.

And here are some of the new succulents we added today. Its amazing how after 50+ different varieties in our succulent garden already, that we can sill find cool new ones.

Oh, and the answers: A-2, B-1, and C-3.

An unlikely castle...

William Randolph Hearst built his dream getaway atop the rolling hills of his enormous San Simeon ranch (250,000 acres!!). Hearst and his visionary architect Juial Morgan began work on the estate in 1919 and really the work never stopped until Hearst's death in 1951.

Tours of the mansion and grounds are all guided--there are four daytime tours. On this trip, we took Tour 2 (which is our favorite) and Tour 4 (which focuses on the gardens, which are not really notable in April).

On both tours, we lucked out and got the same guide--a colorful woman named Julie. She was animated and had a storytelling style that really drew us in.

Now, everybody that goes to Hearst Castle will tell you about the pools. There are two of them (one indoor and one outdoor), and they grand. Frankly, nothing about Hearst Castle is understated. There are statues and carvings everywhere...usually inspired by some antique that Hearst had seen. And of course, there are true antiques everywhere you turn.

The best parts of the house (in our opinion) are the upstairs rooms. These are the highlight of Tour 2. You get to visit Heart's library, his private Gothic study, and many cool tucked away bedrooms. Most of the ceilings are transported from Europe--lots of Spanish and Italian ceilings.

I think what is the most fascinating part of Hearst Castle is that it is clearly a work in progress. As Hearst acquired more ceilings or doors, he would ask his architect to change floorplans or build additions. So, in many places, you see the bones of the building and the concrete walls just waiting for some elaborate tile work.

Hearst Castle stands out because of its isolation. It sits uniquely alone among some of the most spectacular natural beauty that California has to offer. Everyone should visit at least once.