Monday, February 27, 2006

Fleet Air Arm Memorial

There are lots of interesting memorials in London, a city with plenty of sacrifices to remember. Some are simple and dignified, while others are more unusual. This one falls into the latter category. While the statue is out of the ordinary, it still struck me as a fitting, dignified tribute, with the statue of an aviator sprouting wings.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Changing of the Guard at Windsor

Owww! I stepped on a nail!

What's the smell? Somebody's been messing with our drumsticks!

Check out my sword! Wanna pet it?

Those guns aren't just for show, are they?

Look how fast we can make our sticks move!

(All of) The Boys in the Band

Hi, mom!

Firing squad gets ready to execute the tourists

Whose sword is bigger?

More marching boys with guns

"No, I don't have one of those big guns, but I'll let you wear the hat!"

So do you feel like you were there? :)

So have you seen what they did to The British Museum?

Recently (think "The Millenium"), the British Museum did a little building. To their more traditional look, they added a wonderful courtyard area that incorporates the old structures while adding a classy modern feel. Take a look...

When it comes to architectural photos, I don't often want to put them on my walls. This, however, may be an exception. The full-resolution version is more than adequate for a poster-size print, and I may just do that.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Working on the photos

Still going through photos. In the meantime, here are a couple of shots.

The minivan? I hear that the Queen likes to use it to sneak out and hit the bars.

On the way home. It looked cold down there!

More photos are on the way. Despite the bad weather and consequent lack of sunlight, I got a few nice shots.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I just flew in from London and, boy, are my arms tired!

I have some photos to share, despite really crappy shooting conditions (although the weather was great if you're into pneumonia). Despite the weather, we had a great time!

In the meantime, here's a first shot. Nothing even slightly scenic. It's a shot I took when we first arrived. We were sitting on the bus from Stansted Airport to Victoria Station, waiting for it to leave. I noticed the term "brake retarder" and took the shot, so I'd remember to look it up and find out what it is. When I looked at the shot, I noticed something else--the odometer (click on the photo for a bigger version).

I know that's probably in kilometers, not miles, but even if it is, that's quite a number!

Converting from kilometers to miles, it's still over 320,000 miles. The bus seemed to run pretty well, so I have to say I'm impressed.

Anyhow, I'll have better photos to share soon. The trip was fun, but it's nice to be home, too.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Jeebus, it's cold!

We're having a great time in London, but somebody needs to turn up the thermostat! The combination of damp weather (actual rain today but just damp yesterday) and cold air has been cutting right through us.

Anyhow, we've been having a lot of fun. I've had limited opportunities for photos, but that's okay. It still has been fun seeing lots of sights. You really get the sense that this is, as Eddie Izzard has said, "where the history comes from."

This morning, we saw The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Interestingly, they don't actually get changed when this happens. Such a disappointment! ;) Instead, one group of guards arrives and another leaves. That was fun.

We spent time on a tour bus, seeing lots of sights. We stopped at St. Paul's Cathedral. Very impressive.

Last night, we met up with Bob for drinks and then coffee. That was nice, We haven't seen him in ages, so that was very nice, and he's a terrific guy.

Tomorrow, we may go to Windsor. Not certain yet, but that's possible. Whatever we do, I'm sure it will be a wonderful day. Even in this nasty weather, we've been having a great time!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow evening, Marc and I are heading to London. We'll get there Saturday morning and will stay until Wednesday. It should be a fun visit.

In the meantime, Jeff is house/dog-sitting. It's good to know that the kids will be in their home and in the safe care of their Uncle Jeff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The times they are a-changin'

Willie Nelson recorded a song called, "Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other)."

It really says something when a major artist records a song like this, especially someone who has a major "middle America" following.

The progress that has been made in recent years is almost too much to be believed. But it's real, and I'm glad to see it. It must drive the bigots crazy! :)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Shouldn't he be diagnosing vegetative patients by videotape or something?

So Bill Frist wants to re-introduce a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage? He's doing this, even though he knows it will fail? In fact, as this country slowly gets more comfortable with gay rights, it probably will fail by an even bigger margin than last time.

So why is he doing this? Because it's an election year! For a supposedly religious man, he seems surprisingly unconcerned with God's eventual judgment of how he has lived his life and treated God's children (yes, gay men and women are God's children, too, Bill).

As if it wasn't enough that he tried to undermine the medical judgment of Terri Schiavo's doctors and the courts of Florida after he used the medical diagnostic technique of watching a videotape, now he's getting behind a renewed push to codify discrimination against millions of Americans in the United States Constitution, a document that, so far, has been a symbol of freedom admired in countries around the world! This isn't really news. It's just sad to see politics continue as usual.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Afternoon recap (and word of my 2-year-old nephew stirring controversy)

Today, everyone was advised to stay home, unless travel was absolutely necessary. Well, having just finished preparing our tax returns, I had to take them to the central mail facility (a nearby hub that's a faster mailing point than the local post orifice). Okay, maybe I didn't have to, but I hate being forced to stay inside. If I want to stay inside, that's one thing, but it has to be because I want to stay in. Today, I didn't. So Marc and I went outside, cleaned off the Explorer and went on our way.

Other absolutely necessary travels included seeing if the bagel store was open. Amazingly, it wasn't. I can't see how this is allowed to happen. Regardless of the conditions, all critical services must operate: police, fire, hospitals, bagel stores, Chinese food delivery, etc.

So I was stunned to find the bagel store closed. Well, at least our tax returns are in the mail. As usual, I owed the state money, but the feds owe me more, so it's okay.

I shot these two photos while we were stopped at a light...

The main north-south road through town (and this is after repeated plowings!)

Swimming complex in Eisenhower Park

Overall, this has been a nice day. We had a great time in the bath before heading out. And after we got home, I built a fire in the fireplace, and Marc made a wonderful roast for dinner.

Now, about my nephew stirring controversy. Actually, it was my brother who was the cause. Apparently, my brother and sister-in-law have told the people at Owen's day care center to leave his sweater on him. Despite this, they keep taking it off, and then he's cold.

So my brother found a way to get some attention. Under Owen's sweater, he had him dressed in a t-shirt with a picture of W and the words "President Poopy-Pants." The teacher was not amused: "Regardless of what you think of him, he's still the President.' To which my brother said, "Well, I told you not to take Owen's sweater off."

Leave it to my brother. :)

Snow dog

Some dogs are happier than others about snow. In our house, opinions of the snow differ. Dodger hates it. He wants to be in his nice, warm house.

Bernice is excited by it, but she doesn't like to stay out for long. A little romp in the snow, and then it's time to go inside and warm up.

And then there's Mandy...

Not that we'll let her just stay out there. Even with her heavy coat, she can't just stay out in the cold. That's not to say she doesn't enjoy it. If the photo doesn't make it clear enough, she loves the snow!

That's just scary

I wish I could get a bigger version of this photo, but I haven't been able to find one. This is from one of the local TV stations (and they obtained it from NASA)...

That's a satellite photo of snowstorm currently hitting our area. That dark spot south of us, down near the DelMarVa Peninsula? That's an eye forming.

I know snowstorms can get intense. When I was in college, I was in a blizzard with thunder and lightning. Trust me, that's scary shit. But a snowstorm coming in off the ocean that's forming an eye?

Okay, if there was any doubt, I'm in for the day. Time to fill the bath and have a nice soak!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Aaron leaves, the dogs are depressed and it's snowing

Today was a big day. As you may know, we learned a few months ago that Aaron needed a place to call home for a while. So we rolled out the welcome mat.

Recently, he met someone special and decided to move to Florida to live with his new man. Today, the man in question arrived here. Aaron loaded his stuff into their rental SUV and away they went.

We didn't have time to get to know Mike, Aaron's new man. He was in the house a total of about 37 seconds. Basically, he said hi, they got everything loaded, Marc wrote out some directions and off they went.

Marc writes out directions

Mike & Aaron review the directions

Aaron and Mandy say goodbye

Mike and Aaron leave

Now, about the dogs. Normally, I'd tell you that Bernice is part Doberman and part Shepherd, Mandy is a Labrador mix, and Dodger is part Shepherd and part Beagle. Today, however, all three are Melon Collies.

Seriously, they're upset. Dodger is taking this particularly hard. Dodger has had a hard life (at least he did before he arrived here), and he's very protective of his people. Over the couple of months that Aaron was here, Dodger adopted him as one of his people.

When Aaron packed for his trip to Florida, Dodger was okay with that. He's seen us pack for trips, and he knows we come back from them. He mopes a bit, but he's basically okay. But this was different, and he knew it. Dodger has been acting strangely since Aaron came back from Florida and started putting his things into boxes. This morning, he even went down to Aaron's room and laid down behind Aaron's chair.

Today, Dodger's worst fears were confirmed. Today, a stranger came and took Aaron and his stuff away. Since then, Dodger has been upset. Tonight, he's been acting strangely and crying a bit. He's very upset. He'll get over it, but I didn't realize that this was going to upset him so much.

Maybe Mike and Aaron will come visit him sometime. That might be good for him. The girls are a bit down, too, but poor Dodger is really upset.

Anyhow, life goes on. Tonight, we're getting snow.

Snow accumulates on young Leyland Cypress trees

Steam from the dryer comes out of the back breezeway

Shirley the feral cat* eats her daily meal

Shirley's cowardly son peeks out from under the house

*Shirley and the generations of her family that we've helped out are fodder for a whole other post, but there's no need to get into that now.

For now, I have dogs to comfort.

Keep warm, everyone! If you're anywhere around here, it's going to be a cold one!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Non-bitching post

I'm not going to bitch about yet another insane day at work. I won't bitch about the stupid old fucker who wasn't watching where he was going, walked right into me and then had the nerve to argue with me about it in Penn Station. I won't bitch about the two semi-drunken approaching-middle-age straight assholes on the train who couldn't shut the fuck up for one fucking minute for the whole fucking ride.

No, none of that. (Okay, fine, so I did say it. Too bad. I could have gone on longer!) ;)

Instead, I will say that Marc is ordering Chinese food (a happy thing for any Jew), and I am going to try to relax. I hope everyone has a relaxing weekend.

Did I mention that we may get a blizzard this weekend? Eh, who cares! To paraphrase the Taco Bell dog, "Heeeeeeere, blizzard blizzard blizzard!"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What a week!

As you know, this week started on an emotionally challenging note. Let me thank everyone who commented and/or e-mailed me. The support is sincerely appreciated!

In addition to that, it has been a bitch of a week. Work has been challenging, to say the least. That happens, and I can deal with it, but then there was some news today.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that we're associated with the Gotham Knights rugby team. In short, I take photos at the games, and Marc tolerates my doing that. :) Oh yeah, we're also members of the team Armory.

A couple of months ago (give or take), one of the senior members of the team had to be hospitalized. I knew of that. I thought he was recovering. He'd left the hospital, and I thought things were going okay. I thought that until today when news reached me that he has passed away.

I can't claim that he was a close friend. In fact, one of our first encounters was slightly unpleasant. Since that time, a couple of years ago, however, things got better and better. The last conversation I remember having with him was at the Jersey Shore Tournament when he asked me to use the camera to zoom in on a half-naked guy some distance away, so he could get a better look. I happily obliged. I'm glad the last thing I remember is a happy memory.

So let's get back to today's news. Not being a close friend, I'm not even sure of his age. I'd say he was somewhere in his 30s. Whatever his exact age, this certainly is a shock and terrible news.

The wake is this weekend.

Next week can't come soon enough. This one has sucked from the word go.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A tough day

Marc is helping me through the day. We’re both at work, but he’s e-mailing me and staying in touch. He knows I’m hurting a lot.

It happened two years ago today. Two years ago at this time of day, I got the call that it had happened. I knew the battle was lost and the end was inevitable. So the call came, and my Mom was gone. I was with her as much as I could be, but I wasn’t by her side at that very moment when she slipped from unconsciousness into death.

She died too young, another life lost to breast cancer. She was the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. She was a great mother. I really couldn’t have wished for better. I don’t think anyone could have been better! Actually, as a child I thought all mothers were like my Mom. I didn’t realize then how very special she was.

I said to Marc that I feel like an egomaniac, because some of my greatest memories of her are from times when I had achieved something. Actually, it’s not my ego driving that; it’s her pride in me and my brothers. My greatest memories of my Mom (and my Dad) are from times when they were happy. They were happiest when they saw their kids doing well.

Everyone who knew my parents knew all about me and my brothers. They knew where we went to school, what we’d done, where we were working, and so on. They were so proud of us, and they weren’t shy about telling the world.

By the same token, we were proud of them. My parents were brilliant people. More importantly, they were compassionate, loving, caring and generous. They’d do anything for us. When they weren’t helping us, they were helping other people.

I could go on and on. I may yet. In the meantime, I’m at work and have to get back to it. Marc says my Mom can see me still and is happy and proud. I sure hope so. My eyes are filled with tears, and I still fill that sickening pain deep inside me. I miss her so much!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What a day!

What a beautiful day! We've got the windows open, and I've been spending time shuttling between the front room--where I have the shutters and windows open--and the sunroom.

Byrne is visiting us, and he and Marc have been in the kitchen for a while, making something that won't be ready for a bit... but it smells amazing!

In the meantime, the dogs and I are entertaining ourselves. The queen of sunny days is Mandy. She loves yard time and basking in the sun. If you're Mandy, all you need to make a sunny day perfect is a stick...

Eventually, when you have to come in, the thing to do is get up on daddy's ottoman in the sunroom, so you can maintain a good view of your yard...

On the lookout for squirrels, cats and other dangerous interlopers

Meanwhile, our peace lily has been working on making a flower or two. It hasn't flowered in a while, so this is a pleasant event. Switching from the point & shoot camera to the SLR, I took this photo...

By the way, the photos I take with the SLR get reduced a great deal before I post them here. If any friends out there want a full-size version, just e-mail me!

This flower hasn't opened fully, but it has started, so you can get a look at what the inside looks like...

Here's a closer look...

The photos (unless you have a very small screen) are much larger than life-size.

Hope you enjoy these. I'm certainly enjoying this beautiful day!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Time to arrange for Iran to have "an accident"

You know how people whom certain people don't like wind up having unfortunate accidents? You've heard the stories, I'm sure.

Well, I think that should be our approach to Iran. Every day, there are new articles in the newspaper about how Iran is quite clearly building nuclear weapons. At the same time, various countries are thinking about talking about doing something to think about suggesting doing something about Iran, like telling them they're being bad and/or other harsh actions.

Bear in mind that this is a country whose president has said Israel should be "wiped off the map." This is a country whose "moderates" don't necessarily want all Americans dead today (but maybe next week).

So I think it's time for a little "black op" to sneak some high-yield nuclear weapons into Iran. Maybe half a dozen or so 20-megaton weapons. Place them strategically and then set them off.

"What? How did that happen? Well, I guess they had nuclear weapons after all! And so many accidents all at once? Well, that's what they get for being bad!"

"What's that? Their entire infrastructure destroyed and nearly everyone dead? Such a shame. I'll send the B'nai B'rith or UJA a little donation in their memory, the poor crispy things."

Really, people, do we want to live in a world where the Iranians have the bomb?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Slime molds

It's stuff like this that almost led me to a career in biology. I'm about two-thirds of the way through Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything", and he just mentioned what are commonly known as slime molds (not to be confused with officials of the NYC Transit Union).

Apparently, in good conditions, slime molds act as single-cell organisms (like an amoeba). When conditions get tougher, the individual organisms draw together and form into a slug. Scientists have no clue how they do it. The slug then finds a suitable spot and grows a plant-like stalk. At the end of the stalk, a pod full of spores grows. This pod eventually opens and spreads the slime mold cells in the wind, so they can find places to flourish.

I find this morphed animal-plant behavior amazing. And how do they know how to make themselves into a slug? It's just amazing!