Monday, December 21, 2009

snow day

I'm not quite sure what the official measurement was in our neighborhood, but I think we got about 20" of snow on Saturday. CJ had been sick all week, but needed a little motivation perhaps for getting better.

Our neighbor was quite helpful in showing CJ how to build a snow house.

It took a while to clear the driveway, but I managed.

All in all, it was a good weekend to have a home. But I'm a little sore this morning from all that shoveling...

Saturday, December 05, 2009


The highlight/lowlight of November was a week and a half-long business trip to Brazil. It's always interesting checking out a new place. That's why it was a highlight. But if there is an enchanting location in Brazil -- and I'm sure there is -- we were pretty far from it. You won't see the petrochemical refinery two miles up the beach from where we were (I didn't photograph it). But let's just say that the ocean looked more like it does off Jones beach than in your typical pristine tropical venue.

We stayed at one of those all-inclusive resorts, and attended a big fisheries meeting at another. It's kind of hard to tell the resorts apart, although this one liked setting up for the day during high tide.

A large rock shelf blocked off the surf from the sand. It made for interesting photos, but not so much for swimming.

Here's the view with my back to the refinery. Fairy nice, but that water just doesn't have the blue sheen it should.

The egrets seemed pretty content with the place, although the tidal pools didn't hold much of anything except a bunch of sea urchins.

A few miles south of us was the tourist village of Porto da Galinhas. In ten days, we escaped to eat here three times. At least the water was a little cleaner here.

Porto da Galinhas is an hour south of the industrial port of Recife. The name means "Chicken Port," and it was one of the main ports used in the slave trade (chickens being derogatory slang for the slaves waiting to be sold). Now, the town takes its name literally, and chicken imagery is ubiquitous.

The town did have its unseemly parts, of course.

Recife, incidentally, is the shark attack capitol of Brazil. They filled in the estuaries along the coast where the bull sharks breed and built a nice strip of hotels on the beach. The only estuary left has a slaughterhouse upstream that is known for unregulated wastewater discharges. So the tourist hotels basically sit on a beach with a lot of confused bull sharks smelling blood in the water and not sure of where they're supposed to be. Very typical of Brazil, I think.

And for those who are curious, here's what the big meeting room looked like where I was stuck for all that time. Note that I was inadvertently filmed while taking the picture...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Making a Jack-O-Lantern

Step 1: take the top off of the pumpkin.

Step 2: take the seeds and junk out of the pumpkin (and separate the seeds for roasting).

Step 3: ask CJ to pick out a design from the jack-o-lantern design book (!) and then spend all afternoon carving out the intricate pattern that she selected.

Step 4: enjoy nifty jack-o-lantern.

Step 5: pose in front of jack-o-lantern before going trick-or-treating.

Step 6: for a nightcap, watch Charlie Brown's gang celebrate Halloween their own special way.

Repeat as necessary.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Apple and Pumpkin Picking

CJ and Tomoki took everyone apple picking this past weekend. The Pumpkin patch was an unexpected bonus. Everyone had a good time; it was one of those spontaneous and fun outings where nothing is really planned and not a whole heck of a lot actually happens but you have a great time doing it.

The LA Times had an article in today's paper declaring that kids age 2-5 watch an average of three hours and 48 minutes of video content daily (up eight minutes from last year). For what it's worth, we find the outdoors to be much more interactive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The fireplace is operational

The one good thing about a week of cold, wet and rainy weather is that it served as a great motivator. CJ enjoyed the first fire in our fireplace.

It's hard to believe we've lived in our new house for less than five months. There is no place like home when it's your home.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


One of my brother's favorite excursions was to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Indiana, to watch sandhill cranes fly south for the winter. His wife's family had a bit of a crane obsession, and they found an idyllic marsh where, every October, tens of thousands of cranes stopped for the night.

He would wax euphorically on the beauty and serenity that he found there, and one of my regrets is that I never drove 14 hours to spend a few cold and wet October days in this swamp with him.

At the beginning of this month, I attended the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Madison, Wisconsin (an interesting affair on its own merits). Journalists being journalists, they spend one day of their conference checking out various environmental stories where ever they are. And for this year's meeting, one of the field trips was an exploration of the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge and efforts to reintroduce Whooping Cranes into the wild. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. (You'll find a few photos are at our Flickr page)

True to the spirit of the outing, the day was cold and wet. But I couldn't recommend it more. The International Crane Foundation is working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to repopulate the whooping crane species. At one point after world war 2, there were only 14; now there are several hundred.

When the cranes are hatched, scientists and staff dress up in hazmat suits with a crane head puppet attached to one hand -- the mommy cranes, if you will. They train the cranes to fly south behind an "ultralight" plane cranking out crane songs while wearing the hazmat suits. And then one day in October, when the weather is as right as it can be, they head south. They fly 30-60 miles a day, land in pre-arranged backyards or parks (the whole journey is elaborately choreographed), and then in the spring the cranes magically head back north on their own.

Climate change threatens the whole operation, of course. Rising sea levels are driving out the cranes' favorite winter food, blue crabs, from their winter wetlands. In fact, projection show that these wetlands, in Texas regrettably, will be under water by the turn of the next century.

But despite this ominous future and tenuous present, the reintroduction program has had much success. And, for a day, I felt wonderfully close to my brother.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Remembering Bill Brainard

There are people you see in life whom you never quite go out of your way to connect with, whom you know would enrich your life but for whatever reason – distance, the routines of your respected lives, work, whatever – it takes far longer to make that connection than it should.

Bill Brainard was one those people, a completely honorable man who eschewed the pursuit of money for the pursuit of helping as many people as he could. He passed away several weeks ago.

While the loss I feel, for not connecting with him as best I could, is substantial, it pales in comparison to the loss that those in his immediate yet broad circle feel, for he helped an incredible number of people directly and substantially.

He was an attorney who worked on housing issues. I once worked on housing issues – trying to insert plans and incentives for affordable housing to be built into the luxury housing that the Bloomberg administration propagated throughout New York, a hypothetical tilt at windmills that never quite worked out (hence our flight to DC because it was more affordable).

The housing issues that Bill worked on were real and immediate, working to keep ordinary or hurting Americans in their homes as the inhumane banks and landlords tried to force them out when rents or mortgages went unpaid. He was a people person, and he embraced both his cases and his clients. Countless colleagues spoke at his memorial service of how special Bill made everyone feel – even as he performed the invaluable service of making sure they did not become homeless.

There is so much to be learned from such an unselfish life. And perhaps the worst of it is that there is one less teacher in the world today.


Photos from the reception after the memorial service can be found at

If folks want access to other family photos, please shoot me an email.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Out and about...

...and really enjoying the Mini...

Sorry for the delay in posting. FYI, I've started to upload more and more photos and video to our flickr account. If you want to see those (they're not available to the public, sorry) please join flickr (it's free, and simple if you already have email or something with yahoo) and let me know.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cash for Clunkers



CJ watching anxiously as the nice car salesman installs the license plates.

CJ found the new car to be just as comfortable, maybe more so.

It's been a busy summer, and I hope that our coming vacation will allow me to catch up and post more photos. The biggest development has to be the new car. It's small, with hopefully enough room so that we can go on vacation (fingers crossed). Overall, we're getting acclimated to the new house, and loving it. Life is going quite well indeed. And it's great that when we finally are ready to move forward with some major life purchases (i.e., new house, new car), the federal government provides some great incentives...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer time and the living is easy

It's been a while since the last entry, mostly because moving is, well, not so much fun and moving into a house is, well, not as easy as it looks. But I am happy to report that we are in, the house is shaping up, and the the backyard jungle is just about tamed. Let's put it this way: the tomato plants go into the garden today.

I have to say that living in a house you own is a completely different experience from anything else. In a month and a half, I have taken on the jobs of contractor boss, building super, tree guy, and safety expert. The amount of new knowledge crammed into my head lately has been insane; it's been one of the more enjoyable and tiring aspects of home ownership.

The neighbors to the right of us are nothing short of amazing. Our first night after the move, when we were sweaty, dusty, and swamped in boxes, they brought us dinner. Seafood risotto with jumbo shrimp and scallops. Need I say more?

The other neighbors have all been very nice and welcoming as well, but that seafood risotto will always be one of the tastiest meals I've ever had. Even if we ate it on the staircase (the only flat surface we could find.

CJ, shown here cruising the house with her buddy Tomoki, has adapted marvelously. We were more than a little concerned how she would handle her third major move in two and a half years -- that's a lot of transition for a three and a half year old. But after maybe one rough week, she settled in nicely and is quite happy. She's been helping with the gardening and tree pruning, and even mowing the lawn.

The best part is that yesterday was her second day at the swimming pool and after only a little hestation, she was swimming like a champ. Takes after her mom, of course.

That's all I have for now. I'll have a more complete photo tour of the new castle, and maybe some video of the backyard at some point. Right now, I'm going to sign off, snag the sunday paper, and finish my coffee on the front porch.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keeping up on current events

Scary headlines just can't chase away the morning appetite, apparently...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life moves pretty fast sometimes...

There are times when the wisdom of Ferris Bueller trumps everything. "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." And that would be one of the points of continuing this blog, an occasional glance at where things are and how they look.

The latest "distraction" is our hopefully soon-to-be new house. We agreed to the seller's counteroffer on April Fool's Day, of course, and the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of inspections, disclosures, decision-making, happiness, and anxiety. But it is a cute house, don't you think?

Yes, that screened in porch is as good as it looks.

Built in 1927, the house is a "Sears Kit" home, meaning that the blueprints and materials were selected from a Sears catalog and then assembled by a local contractor. It is also in really good shape (for the most part) and has no additions whatsoever (many of the houses here are kinda dull with additions that are even duller).

Aside from being exceptionally cute, the price fit nicely into our budget and we locked up the mortgage two weeks ago, when rates were at an all-time low. We're very happy.

Jammed into all the home-buying craziness was a three-day frisbee tournament where a large number of friends from New York came down to play and visit, and then a spring break-Easter family visit/invasion. Much fun was had, and the dust just settled.

Meg and CJ came to watch one day of the ultimate tournament, which was very nice because, at my tender age I'm not quite sure which tournament will be my last. I am particularly fond of this shot:

So now we brace ourselves for packing and moving, followed by the ups and downs of home ownership. But hopefully, we'll be settling down in our new house for a while. We've been living in transition for an eternity, it seems. It's time to lay down some roots.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

they call her...

...bucket head?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sweet dreams...

'nuff said.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Field of dreams

We've been into milk mustaches lately.

Enough said on that. What this post is all about is a nice diversion that our realtor, Bill, took CJ and I to after looking at yet another house on Sunday. It was so nice and warm this weekend that all the crocuses (crocii?) came out in full force, and seem to have concentrated in one vacant lot. CJ had a lot of fun, needless to say.

If only we could find a house that suited us as well as this field did...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

At the zoo

Last Thursday, Mommy called in sick. So I had to take care of CJ for the day. We went to Chinese class and then spent most of the day at the zoo, where CJ bonded with the one panda that mingled with everyone. Afterwards, we went home to make chicken soup. End result: Mommy is all better, and Daddy had a great day.

The previous weekend, we went up to NYC to visit NaiNai and YeYe and Bogey and wish NaiNai a happy birthday. CJ and NaiNai had a lot of fun playing with Bogey in between helpings of birthday cake, of course.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winter hiking can be fun

You just can't argue with this smile.

After five days in Lisbon, Portugal, and one day in Camden, Indiana (my very first work junket--the Lisbon leg, at least), I was very happy to be home for a three-day weekend with no work to do the entire time!. While Mommy rested, CJ and I checked out a nice piece of woods an hour north of us. Much fun was had, apparently...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Glory Days

CJ's really getting the chord changes down pat, don't you think?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Our new laptop is coming!

Tracking the path of our new laptop (a Lenovo/IBM, made in China). We probably should have stayed domestic, but we are supporting a number of fed-ex depots, from the look of things.

01/30/2009 1:56 P.M.

01/30/2009 4:39 A.M.

01/30/2009 3:04 A.M.

01/30/2009 2:39 A.M.

01/30/2009 12:03 A.M.

01/29/2009 2:25 P.M.

01/29/2009 10:57 A.M.

01/25/2009 8:47 A.M.

01/24/2009 5:59 P.M.

01/24/2009 3:23 P.M.

01/25/2009 2:10 A.M.

01/25/2009 12:37 A.M.

01/24/2009 9:00 P.M.

01/24/2009 8:00 P.M.

01/23/2009 8:53 P.M.

01/23/2009 7:00 P.M.

01/23/2009 4:50 P.M.

01/22/2009 10:58 P.M.

01/23/2009 10:02 P.M.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009