Yearly Archives: 2012

Fall in Las Vegas

I've been spending the weekend with my sister in Las Vegas, keeping her company while her husband (as usual) is at the Reno Air Races.  At least this year nobody up there died.

One of the things I do while I'm here, since getting out of bed is hard for her and takes a long time, is get up around 6 AM or so, let the two dogs out into the fenced yard, and go back to bed.  We let them back in and feed them when we get up a couple hours later.

Yesterday morning around 6 AM, I did something stupid.  I got up, went out into the hall without turning on a light, and turned left toward Sue's room – and tripped over Duke, the Doberman, who was sleeping outside my room.  (Duke likes me.)  I would have seen him if I'd turned on a light. I did a faceplant – I landed on my right eyebrow.  And my left knee. 

This was stupid.  It also began a 3 week period in which I'm more likely than usual to fall again, and in which I have to take an airplane flight, and move house.  (Details about that last in another post.)

The good news is that I got ice on both bruises within 10 minutes of the fall; my sister has a freezer full of icepacks.  I iced them 4 times yesterday and a couple of times today, and nothing except my forehead is even especially tender to touch.  But there's no denying it:  I have a really spectacular shiner.  I look like a raccoon.  And my knee looks about the way you'd expect.

No, I do not plan to post a photo.

It shook me badly.  I've fallen a couple of times, but I've never hit my head before, and it scared me.  I was shaky all day, and Sue was shaky all day, she was really upset that I fell.  We're both slowly getting over this, but it wasn't how we thought the weekend would go. 

Duke has been extremely apologetic; he regularly comes up and leans against me, and puts his head between my knees if I'm sitting.  Poor dog, it wasn't his fault.

Posted in Family, Personal Tagged |

Touring Cologne

On July 17 we docked in Cologne, around 10 AM.  Before I begin on our day in Cologne, I'd like to describe this as a fairly typical day on the cruise.  Early risers could get breakfast in the lounge as early as 6 AM; you could get a continental breakfast in the foredeck area (the Aquavit Terrace) from 7:30; also at 7:30, they offered a very full breakfast in the main dining room.  The Aquavit Terrace had a glass roof but was largely open to the weather; the dining room, of course, was indoors.  Breakfast was anything from fresh rolls and fruit to dry cereal to omelets made to order by one of the chefs, with coffee, tea, and at least 3 kinds of fruit juice.

The truly energetic could gather in the lounge at 7:00 AM for a daily Qi Gong exercise session, breathing and stretching.  I did this for the first week or so, it was a nice start to the day, but if there was an early tour I had to skip it.  It consistently had 5-8 people.

At 9:30 they had a very elementary (Was kostet ein Bier?) German lesson in the lounge.  They had some kind of presentation most mornings, usually quite well attended, as there was very little else to do on board while sailing except read, stare out the windows, take an occasional photo, and gossip.  In the early part of the cruise it rained a lot, which made the sun deck less attractive.  It was raining when we got to Cologne but it cleared up later in the day, and that was also typical.

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Posted in Personal, Photography, Vacations Tagged |


Monday the 17th was the first full day of the cruise and the first shore excursion.  We docked around 8 AM, and right after breakfast we went ashore at Kinderdijk, a small village of 19 traditional Dutch windmills, dating from as early as the 14th century.  Kinderdijk is located on a strip of land between the Lek and Noord rivers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Here was my first view of Kinderdijk:


If you'd like to see the whole gallery, it's at this link

I had forgotten why the Dutch built windmills.  They weren't grain mills, or only incidentally grain mills.  They pumped water out of the polders or reclaimed lands, using a system of dikes to control the water.  All these windmills are in working order and a local ordinance requires the families who live in them to maintain and run them.  Much of this part of the Netherlands is below sea level.  If you're interested in more background, just Google "Kinderdijk"; the best background is probably the UNESCO site.

The actual pumping today is done by electric pumps.  I was charmed to find that the electric pumps are actually Archimidean screws:

Water pumps

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Posted in Personal, Photography, Vacations Tagged , |

Hungarian Horse Show, Part 2

So here we are back at the Lázár Equestrian Park.  For background, see my previous post, Hungarian Horse Show.

I left out the ox wagon.  Oxen aren't anything like as beautiful (or fast) as horses.  But I don't think I've ever seen longhorns of this magnitude harnessed to a wagon before:

Ox drawn wagon

After the oxen and the "post rider" with his five horses, we had a display of basic dressage moves. The horse is a Lippizaner, ridden by a woman riding sidesaddle.  I believe in this photo the horse is doing a piaffe or standing trot.

Woman riding Lippizaner sidesaddle

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Posted in Personal, Photography, Vacations Tagged |

Hungarian Horse Show

I wasn't sure about this.  It was on the afternoon of the last day of the cruise; the alternative was exploring Budapest.  But my sister likes horses, and I thought, at least I can get her some photos.  So I signed up, and after an hour bus ride arrived at Lázár Lovaspark – that's the Lázár Equestrian Park to you English speakers.  The link is to the English language site.  

Here is the link to my photo gallery, Hungarian Horse Show.  For every photo I show here, there are more there of the same subject; in fact, this will be the first of two posts on this.

Let's be clear:  this is not some fake to amuse the tourists.  This is a working, competing stable which also does demonstrations.  The owners are brothers, Lázár Vilmos and Lázár  Zoltán.  They compete in international four-in-hand driving competitions:

Weltmeisterschaft der Vierspaenner

One of the owners' family, they told us, holds the world record for maximum number of horses driven at one time – eighteen!  Having some background with horses, I asked how in hell they harnessed eighteen horses together – in four spans of four across, I was told, with the two extras at the back, in front of the wagon.  Yow.  So naturally the first thing we got was a demonstration of four-in-hand driving:

Wagon pulled by 4 horses

They also had a pony wagon with four white Welsh ponies harnessed.  And all these teams came by at pretty close to a full gallop.

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Posted in Personal, Photography, Vacations Tagged |

Amsterdam – Day 2

Actually, day one-and-a-half, because this was the day we moved onto the Viking Embla, our floating home for the next two weeks.  But we began the morning with a ride on a canal boat.  (After I went and got the photographs I had wanted of the Niewe Kirk – and well worth the extra €5 admission!)

If you visit Amsterdam, you really have to take the canal boat tour; the whole city revolves around the canals.  The photos of the boat tour begin in my Amsterdam gallery with the photo of the water hen:

Water hen

These little critters were all over the canals.  They look like coots to me, only with white faces; but water hens they're called.  We saw them nesting in the canals in abandoned boats, and piles of trash.

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Posted in Personal, Vacations Tagged |

Amsterdam – Day One

We bought a cruise "extension" and spent 2 days exploring Amsterdam before the cruise sailed.  I loved Amsterdam:  the history, the tall narrow houses (a guide said they used to have to pay tax on the width of the street frontage), the hoisting equipment at the top of the houses, which sometimes lean into the street.

Amsterdam houses lean into the street

Because the houses were so narrow, you couldn't bring furniture or other large items up the stairs; so you hoisted them into the house through the upstairs windows, using pulleys.  The outward lean is to keep things from banging into the windows.  Our guide swore they still do this.  The houses are built right out to the street, narrow (with a few exceptions), tall, and deep. 

You also occasionally see a house leaning sideways.  This means the wooden piers it is built on are rotting. I don't have a photo.

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Posted in Personal, Vacations Tagged |

Flying to Amsterdam

This post won't include any photos; I rarely take pictures of airplane or airport interiors (even if TSA would let me).  But our trip to Amsterdam to begin our European vacation had its moments.

The first moment began when departure time arrived and the United plane didn't take off.  Oh, one of those.  We sat on the tarmac for enough time to make our departure an hour late, which was interesting because our connection in Frankfurt was only an hour and a half.  Maybe they'll make it up later, I thought; nothing we can do about it now. 

We later learned the reason:  a passenger had tried to bring a stroller onto the plane as a carry-on!  The delay was how long it took TSA to get the damn thing into the cargo compartment where it belonged. I'm sure none of my friends would consider doing this, but if you should wonder whether that folding stroller will fold up small enough to fit in the overhead – the answer is, no.  It won't.

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Posted in Personal, Vacations Tagged |

Fireworks and Sousa

One of my favorite annual events, if I'm in town, is the concert the Oakland East Bay Symphony puts on every July 3 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California.  There's nothing quite like watching a fireworks display (Richmond does theirs early) while listening to a full symphony orchestra play John Philip Sousa marches.  It was a gorgeous night; the symphony showcased two very talented young soloists, a singer and a pianist; there was a huge full moon.  I'd like to share a few photos I took last night.

Click here for the full gallery, but I'd just like to share my favorite fireworks shot:

Fireworks at Richmond

… and my "moon shot":

Moon over the East Bay hills

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you really ought to put this one on your calendar for next year.  Best of all – it's FREE!

Posted in Personal, Photography Tagged , |

Transit of Venus

I didn't see the whole thing but yes – I did see the Transit this time around and I got photos!  I got the photos, without a heavy-duty sun filter, from a handy little device called a SunSpotter:


The amusing thing about the SunSpotter is that they had probably half a dozen of them sitting on tables with NO lines at all, you could just walk up and look at them.  At the same time, hundreds of people were standing in two very long lines (which stopped dead whenever the clouds closed in, of course) to look through the two sun telescopes set up on the plaza.  If you've ever looked through a 'scope, you know that the image is very small and tiny details are not terribly clear, while the SunSpotter gives you a lovely clear view about the size of a saucer.

I'd really like to get one for myself but I don't think they're cheap!  They project an enlarged image of the sun onto a piece of white paper, like this:

First image, 15:48:15 PDT

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Posted in Nature, Photography Tagged |