Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fly Swatter

Well, today seems anti-climatic after all the traveling we've been doing this last week. What to talk about now? Who would care what's posted here daily when it's not about New York City?

Most of the day we spent catching up on sleep. But we heard an interesting experience from our house sitter.

While we were gone we asked a friend to house sit, well actually, cat sit for us. Who cares about the house? It's the cats that need looking after. Snickers and Taco, those rascals.

Anyway Maiko, our house sitter, decided to have another friend over. Her and her friend Yuki were sitting at the table enjoying a meal together when they were pestered by two flies that had come in with the cats. As Yuki tells it: "They were buzzing and buzzing around, and they were very irritating to us. So I said to Maiko: 'By tonight those flies will be dead.'"

And so they were.

But Yuki used what was closest to her to swat at the flies. She looked over at our pile of unopened mail, grabbed a catalogue and started swatting. By the time she was done the magazine was ripped and torn. She didn't notice until then that the catalogue was a men's underwear catalogue. (I don't know how I get on these mailing lists, don't ask.) Then she began to feel bad, not that she ruined our catalogue, but that I'd think she had been pawing through it.

So, she threw the catalogue away. She apologized profusely.

I told her: "That's alright, I'll put your name on their mailing list."

A cat makes all the difference between coming home to an empty house and coming home.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

NYC - Homeward bound

Morning came early, the sun came through the blinds. We had our breakfast, checked out, and headed down to Newark Airport.

We had such an enjoyable time. Ruth did an excellent job making all the arrangements and preparations. I just showed up, complained about everything, and drove everyone crazy.

We added up our expenses and we were happy that we came under our $3,000 budget by . . . get this . . . $1,000. That's right, taxis, plane fair, hotels, meals all came to about $2,224.

I'll sleep well tonight.


Friday, July 29, 2005

NYC - Wallkill Tour

One of the great things about the Patterson Inn is the nuker (microwave), toaster, coffee maker, and fridge. That means that you can go up to the local A & P, pick up your meals and nuke them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

So this morning we whipped up some scrambled eggs in a bowl, put them in the nuker and chowed down. Quite tasty, really. Bethel also provides you fresh coffee packets for the coffee maker. Not bad really. So we had our coffee, toast, and scrambled eggs while watching CNN news (they also provide some key cable channels). We did bring along our text so that we could do the morning text thing too.

We decided to pick up the Wallkill tour. It's about an hour away from Patterson. Before we left we called a friend-of-a-friend to say "hello" for them. Eric was from the Art department so he brought us up to his studio to show us some of the stuff he was working on. I've never seen an artist who's work I didn't like here, but Eric's was outstanding. He showed us why he included a caged goose in one of the 70 C.E. pictures he'd drawn for the magazines. There's an old guy, evidently fallen in the haste of the exodus, peering into the cage, representing the eventual destination of the people. One man, with tied hands and slightly slouching, casts a glance backwards across the landscape of sad people. He's off to the left. The reason Eric positioned him there was so that once your eye scans the people and finds him off to the side, you find yourself again looking back over his shoulder at the fleeing people. It's very effective.

We wanted to stay and see more but we had to meet someone for lunch at Wallkill. So thanking Eric profusely, we left and arrived at Wallkill with just five minutes to spare.

Lunch was chicken, mini-cabages (brussel sprouts), and cheese cake with fresh blueberries. We ate up. We heard that the tour was going to be two hours so we took advantage of the plates of food passed around the table.

The tour of Wallkill is indeed long. It took about two and a half hours to complete. We saw the burst-binding, Roland presses (four in all), conveyers, delux bindry, shipping, and more. There is just too much to write about here to convey the size and skill of all we saw. The presses are huge, I'd say four stories high by the time you figure in all the support pipes of chill water and ink pumped to each machine. The continous conveyers that route the magazines and signaures (booklets) to the trimmers and automatic stackers are endless.

The reason why this picture caught my attention was the stars. Now, they may just look like a few spots of white paint at the top of the picture but there is much more to this painting than meets the eye. First off it should be said that all the artists spend sometimes hours or even days researching the material before they even put a brush to the canvas. For example, the artists researched the constellations that would have appeared in the night sky at the time Babylon was invaded by the Medes and Persians, as well as the location of the city, before placing the stars in the sky. Wow, I can just hear the artists say: "Hey, I just want to paint here!"

The shipping department alone has conveyers that are a mile and a half long. The horozonal carosels automatically position themselves and show the item to be picked based on the orders in the computers and the bar codes on the box side. It's phonominal.

Eric met up with his cousin right here at Wallkill. Now he has someone to hang with should he end up here.

The boys got a little bored I guess because I discovered these pictures in my camera:

Even though we were worn out after hours of walking, we decided to meet Bob and Cathy at a very unusual restaurant. It's called Umami. Which refers to a "fifth primary taste." The menu includes very unusual items like nothing you've ever tasted before.

Afterward we went to Bob and Cathy's room for wine. I found Bob's most comfortable leather chair, claimed it as my own, and quickly fell asleep. What a jerk I was. Bob woke me up at 10:30 to tell me he had to get up for work the next morning. Oh, yeah, sorry, I thought everyone was on vacation.

Never buy new shoes on vacation. - Dave Terry

Thursday, July 28, 2005

NYC - Patterson Tour

We were up at 6:30 a.m. in spite of the fact that we are supposed to be on vacation.

Oh well, since the storm rolled in last night, the air is a perfect 78, clear sky with a few cloud puffs. We couldn't have ordered better weather. Of course, none of this matters since we are taking tours indoors today but it makes for good pictures out by the fountains. Looks to be a great week of weather.

Patterson Education Center is on 670 acres of land. However, only 100 acres are developed. About 13 acres are orchards. There are 1,269 apple tress and 412 peach trees, and lots of cows roaming over the rolling hills off highway 22. One hundred calves are born each spring. Approximately 1200 live and work here. Art, Service, Correspondence, Photography, Video production and sound stages are located here.

Melissa gave us a great DVD tour of Art. We also got a custom tour of Video. At the end of the tour of Video we saw interviews of Nancy Yuen and Herold King. We also got a chance to see the making of Respect.

Kerry really gave us a royal tour of Video Services. They are responsible for the filming of the videos. The details that go in to a single scene are impressive. For example, they wanted to film from the Empire State Building's Observation Deck but the cost was prohibitive. And in addition to the deck, they charge for elevator access, loading dock access, and personnel use. They could have used some other public area for this specific shot. However, in the end, the fee was waived and they got exclusive access to the deck for the couple of hours they needed for the shooting.

Kerry also showed us a segment from Family Night he filmed and presented with puppets.

The original paintings, framed and hung throughout the complex, are captivating. The detail, in spite of the fact that these are "production illustrations", they are arresting. The detail is outstanding. I find myself staring at them for extended periods, my eye drawn in my the expressions in the faces, the details of the time periods represented, and the research required to paint them. (In one painting the researcher investigated the star constellations that would have appeared at that time and in that area of the world.)

Bob and Kathy has us in for lunch and we got a chance to see many that we knew over 20 years ago. They look as good now as they did then. (They lied and said the same about us.)

The laundry does 3,550 shirts a week for the family here. It's impressive how much work gets done.

We went to the local Hall for the meeting and got home by 10:30. We were the last to leave.

Tired, feet hurting, minds spinning from all the absolutely amazing things we experienced today, we feel asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillow.

Never bring only one pair of shoes on a trip. - Dave Terry

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

NYC - Patterson

The plan was to visit the Sony Discovery Museum. It's a place to play with all their new technology. However, in order to get in we had to call ahead. Somehow we got our dates wrong and we arrived on the wrong day. Just as well, there were two groups of school kids wearing blue and red T-shirts. It was loud standing there on the street with them. I couldn't imagine what it would be inside the same room with them. We just looked through Sony's store and decided to go to Patterson early.

Returning to the airport for our rental car was simple. We just hired another taxi. I went to 6th avenue and hailed a yellow van-taxi who told me ahead of time what the cost would be. It cost us $60, including tolls and tip.

We've been doing fairly well on expenses. Excluding hotel and taxis to and from the airport we've spent about $50/day. Spending $60 on a taxi to Manhattan seems expensive. But when you consider taking a bus or trains it's not so bad. With the four of us it averaged $15 each both ways. Hotels will come to about $1,100. Of course, if Ruth keeps putting change in every hat on the street, we'll never be able to stay within our budges. Here she is posing with a perfectly still dog and cat.

I'm so impressed by the Super 8 we stayed at in Manhattan. It was clean, they provided free breakfast and Internet access, and they were right in the middle of Manhattan, centrally located. With good walking shoes you could walk anywhere and save the cost of the trains. (It cost $2 per ride or $5 unlimited rides for a day.)

We decided to go rent our car early and begin the trip up to Patterson. We got lost several times on the way but eventually got there.

On the way up we ate some snacks. We brought some nuts, crackers, and bananas. While I drove, Ruth offered to peel for me a banana. I accepted and realized that she has handed me the banana stem side down. What? She pealed from the smooth end. She says that she always peals the banana from the non-stemed end! We've been married for over 25 years and I never realized that this is the way she always does this. How is this possible? I explain that you are supposed to peal it from the stemmed end. But she insists that there are no open direction labels on the fruit. There is no "This side up" anywhere she says.

We needed more than snacks. We had to get something to eat. We stopped at an Applebees. I not too impressed with these restaurants. This one smelled of stale table rags when we sat down but we were so hungry it didn't matter. (Looking back, if I ever have this experience again I'm leaving the restaurant.) We ordered and the food was just okay. While the boys had desert I went to the bathroom to change into my slacks, shirt and tie.

Meeting dress is required when you pick up your guest key to stay at Patterson Inn. It's a rather crazy idea I think. I guess some of the guests arriving were dressed rather outlandish so now you are required to go as if dressed for a meeting.

Anyway, when I opened the door I discovered that one of the toilets had overflowed. There was water (and other stuff) on the floor. I don't know if you've ever tried to change your pants above a floor with pools of water, but it's nearly impossible to keep you pants from slapping the tiles and sopping up what's there. I stood on the tops of my shoes, emptied my pockets of keys and change onto a baby changing table attached to the wall. At one point I almost toppled with one leg in and my right foot stuck. I started going over when I grabbed the baby table. Fortunately it held or I would have been the dry mop for the toilet water.

As soon as we arrived a huge storm rolled in and lightening slapped and crackled from above. I sat in the car while Ruth, Eric and Forest went inside the A&P for groceries. One especially loud flash danced on the tops of the light posts in the parking lot. I had visions they'd arrived back at the car only to find a charred driver clutching the steering wheel. They'd peer in, see me slumped over, and thinking I was just taking a nap would ask: "Been gone long?"

I backed into a slot right near the door to wait. I watched the cascading rain dump into the parking lot in such volume my fast whippers couldn't keep up. Lakes formed in the huge parking area and I swear I saw Noah's ark float by. Seriously, it was impossible to get from your car to the store without resembling a coach at a football game just after being drenched by Gatorade. I saw one guy gazelle through the ponds and rivers of the asphalt wearing slacks, white shirt and tie. When he arrived at his car his once billowing white shirt looked like a biker's spandex top and his skin bled through. His once puffy hair looked like a wet mop atop his head.

The Inn at Patterson was unbelievably clean, especially after staying at the Super 8. These rooms are immaculate. I know I've heard the expression "So clean you could eat off the floor." but that's just exactly what I'd do. And the workmanship is outstanding. As I sat in the bathroom I was amazed that I couldn't determine any seams in the wallpaper. The wallpaper was a striped and textured affair, but it was impossible to find the seams. I looked at them from about eight inches away! The tiles were perfect, even at the corners the tiles were at perfect right angles to the walls. The grout between the tiles was so precise it was as if drawn by a #2 pencil lead. The room includes a fridge, microwave, iron, cable TV, remote, and automatic coffee maker. (But no hair dryer?)

Bob and Cathy met us at the boy's room bringing a bottle of 2001 Cana Cabernet. Wow! Great stuff. A brother makes this I guess. Even the cork says: "Cana, the miracle continues."

We sat and visited while nibbling Cathy's chocolate chocolate-chip cookies. Bob was telling us about how he conducts his Book Study in the Daniel book. He's got little drawing projects he assigns to the kids and research questions he assigns to the adults. You can't fall asleep in his book study, that for sure!

We parted at 10:30 p.m. and agreed to call them tomorrow after the tour.

Never change clothes over a wet restroom floor. -Dave Terry

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

NYC - Mid-Manhattan

We decided to go out for breakfast. It's true the hotel has free continental breakfast but we need some protein, especially since, in these last two days, we've been walking all over creation.

Everywhere and anywhere in the city there are great deals for breakfast. For $2.25 you can get eggs, toast, hash-browns, and a cup of coffee.

Just down the street we opted to pay a buck more and get the omelet. We carried our breakfast down to 42nd and 5th and ate in front of the New York Public LIbrary.

The temp is going to be 105 today so we ducked into a book store (Coliseum Bookstore across the street). This bookstore has a cafe so I ordered coffee. I always order plain black coffee but a New Yorker in front of me ordered iced coffee and I thought Why not? and ordered coffee poured over ice and served in a clear plastic cup.

Ruth found a great location facing the library and park at the counter. We climbed up on the high chairs with our coffee and books. Throngs of people walked by, we gawked at them walking in that sweltering New York air. It's like a blast furnace out there. Hot air blows up from the grates and hot air blows from the truck and bus exhaust. It's great to be inside.

I guy with another iBook came in and helped me connect to the free wireless. I felt a little embarrassed that I didn't remember I had my network encrypted and so couldn't connect. He just suggested that I set up another configuration and it worked. After I thanked him, he said: "Yeah, it helps to be working in computers for so long." Yeah, well, my being involved in computers for 25 years didn't help me none. Of course, I didn't tell him that. I just told him how great it was having such an experienced computer person next to me at the counter. Who would have imagined a Mac user would be sitting right next to me? I told him I just got the computer and so didn't know much.

I casted about for a good book to read while we sat in the cafe and found a strange book called "We are sorry." It was filled with just pictures of people holding up cardboard or paper signs saying "I'm so sorry." What is this about? Some of the cardboard signs had longer messages. One of them apologized for the current U.S. administration's decision to go to war with Iraq. Oh, now I get it. Some signs said we love other people of the world, we don't hate anyone, etc. One of the pictures caught my attention though. It was a picture of a 40-ish woman wearing a spaghetti-stringed tank top, shortly shorts with ragged hems, and fishnet stockings. She was blowing smoke up from her cigarette through her stringy hair. The caption read: "Sorry the Jacka** won." (It's a family site here, okay!) What struck me as strange was that anyone of the middle-eastern nations (and I assume this was the audience intended) would have been so horrified at her dress (or lack of it) that they would not even have notice the message she was holding. They would not even have gotten past the tank top that had Jacka** emblazoned on it. This whole picture would have been so objectionable to these nations, I doubt that book would receive any kind of wide distribution.

But I digress.

NYC Public Library is just across the street, it's air conditioned and quiet. So we found a dark chocolate-coffee colored wood paneled room to read, write, and draw in. Eric and Forest decided to do some sketching while I wrote a little and Ruth took a brief nap. Ahhhh, peace and quiet. We can hear little street noise, a faint ambulance but certainly no busses or taxis.

We got back to the hotel but Eric and Forest decided to brave the subways on their own and went to Battery Park. Crazy kids. They did well and were back before dark.

Sony innovations tomorrow! A very cool place we hear.

Until then.

Drunk guy: "So, where would you want to get your gall bladder taken out: France or New York?" -Overheard at 1st Avenue & 3rd Street

Monday, July 25, 2005

NYC - Bethel

Of course, our main goal for our visit to NYC was to visit Bethel. Lloyd is still here from 1977, we came in together and has always been so hospitable. He took us all through the 10th and 8th floors of the office on 25 Columbia Heights. We also toured the factory, although it's mostly the laundry since the printing moved to Wallkill.

Lloyd tells great stories and relates history with so much enthusiasm that even I get excited about old people and old dates. For example, he tells about the British who trapped Washington in an old home right next to 124 Columbia Heights. The story goes that they were about to attack on August 24th 1776 when a fog rolled in. The British decided to wait until morning. However, during the night row boats from Manhattan scurried the soldiers across the East River. By morning Washington and his army were safe. The British chased them up Manhattan through New Jersey but eventually he got away. Without the fog, there would have never been a seventh dual world power.

He told us about the early years and the issue the U.S. Government had with The Finished Mystery back in the early 1900s, the ban the U.S. Government placed on the book, and the eventual imprisonment of the seven. What I found interesting is that the reasons the U.S. Government had to ban the book is the very same reason the China government has banned the literature today. Just this last Thursday We heard this very thing from a study Ruth has with a Chinese government student at Kennesaw State University. No government likes to hear that they are not, nor will always be, the world power.

One interesting aspect of Bethel is all the training centers they now have. Here you see Forest training for plumbing. (You'd think he'd know how to flush a toilet.) Other areas were: mechanical drawing, electronics, and HVAC. The tour included a view from the 90 Sands, just across from the factory. Great views.

We learned quite a bit about translation. There are 112 Branches most of which are doing translation. It takes about three years to translate the NWT, one year for the Greek and two years for the Hebrew. Translation is difficult. How can you translate "put away your toys?" Put away can have so many meanings. Putting away your toys has different meaning than say: "Wow, you can really put away some food." or "You shall not put away the wife of your youth." The translation tools software includes an online up-to-date dictionary as well as a search feature that shows how the word or expression has been used. All animal and plant names in the magazines include a parenthetical latin name so as to uniquely identify say a "water buffalo" which can be translated as many different animals. In the NWT, there are 5,500 major words in the Greek and 8,800 in the Hebrew to translate.

Of the 237 countries of the world, we have brothers and sisters in 235 of them. The literature is printed in 400 different languages now.

We just won a 12-year court case in Germany. Even though JWs have been in Germany since the early 1900s, survived through the concentration camps, and number in the millions, the German government has never recognized JWs as a government "approved" religion. When you fill out your tax form in Germany, you can check a box to send any amount to your chosen church, the Catholic or Lutheran Church. Those used to be the only choices. Now, however, the box allows a write-in so that you can contribute to any church of your choice. We currently receive contributions from non-JWs simply because people hate the Catholic or Lutheran church and want to contribute elsewhere.

Lunch was great. There is now a dining room in 30 Columbia Heights. We took a quick peek out at Manhattan from the balcony and then walked down Montegue street. Since Ruth didn't eat much at the dining room we visited Souvlaki's, (soov-loc-key) a sandwich shop that serves shaved lamb in pita bread.

We showered back at the hotel and went out briefly to Barnes and Nobles but I was disappointed. Same books but no over-sutffed chairs to sit on, nor any coffee shop inside. It was a three-story affair with stained carpets and messy shelves. It just was not up to the same standard I've come to know.

An arrow is useless without the bow. Take aim in life before you fire. - Dave

Sunday, July 24, 2005

NYC - Lower Manhattan

I write this in the Hotel's free breakfast room (Super 8 Hotel on 46th and 6th). CNN is broadcasting a story about a woman stabbed 13 times last night while trying to catch the J train. He was after her purse.

There is supposed to be free wireless Internet but I haven't found it yet. Ruth checked her email using the free computer provided just around the corner but the wireless is nonexistent. (I was able to upload yesterday's post at a Starbucks. I didn't use the T-Mobile they have there, it's not free. But it turns out that just about anywhere in NYC you'll find two or three wireless access points. Most are encrypted but at least the one at Starbucks in Tribeca (which is short for: triangle below canal), near City Hall in Manhattan. Today I just plugged into the network from their computers.)

I'm now sitting in lobby and I'm getting a weak signal from the wireless access point. I'm sitting right under the antenna. The hotel check-in clerk says: "Yeah, it's sometimes like that."

It's hard to concentrate here because there are these four white woman yelling across the lobby at each other about where they are going next. I don't care where they go, I just hope their exit is soon.

Just outside the hotel was some kind of street vendor bonanza. From 42nd to 59th on Broadway booths of food, clothes, trinkets, and art work were set up and people were swarming like bees to honey. (Actually the streets of NYC smell of sewage, so a better simile would be swarming like flies to manure, but this is a family blog.)

We bought a banana/strawberry smoothy for $4 and walked to the train station for a ride to Washington Square, where the chess players are. Soho (which means, south of Houston), starts from 14th and extends to Houston (pronounced How-ston). Washington Square is small and there wasn't much happening. There were many people sitting around reading the newspaper. And there were some chess players swatting their clocks after each move.

We walked all around, and I mean ALL around Little Italy AND China Town. Wow.

We came across this store called Evolution. Strange place. All kinds of skeletons and skulls, bugs and toad coin purses. Yeah, that's right, you heard it here. They gutted the toad, cut off it's rear legs, tanned his hide, and put a zipper in. What a great gift idea this would be. Completely disgusting. There it was, front legs, bumpy back and head, in gruesome detail. The owners looked a little weird too. The guy was short and grey, hey nothing wrong with that, but it was his wife/girlfriend that was odd. She had short pokey blond hair, tight spandex biking shorts, and dark makeup. She looked like a punker. She looked like a bomb about to go off, or had. I hate to ask folks like that any questions. I'm always afriad they'll go off on me.

The highlight was Little Italy and our lunch at Palazzo Ristorante Italiano. How did that woman eat so much? She was about 130 pounds and put away a huge rib eye and spinach greens! Ruth ordered some chicken and pasta and I? Just cappuccino. (I'd eaten at McDonalds about two hours back. Had too, I was dying but Ruth wanted to walk on.) Later, for desert, we had a cannoli with pistachios. Forest (Eric's friend. Yeah, that's right like the place with lots of trees.) had sorbet. Ruth had crapes souffle. Eric called them "soggy pancakes" but he didn't object when Ruth let him finish them up. Forest kept repeating the name of his desert with an Italian accent -- he's beginning to sound like an Italian. Of course, our waiter was the real thing. I really had to listen carefully so that I wouldn't embarrass myself by asking him to repeat the menu items.

Little Italy is great on Sunday's. All the restaurants place tables out on the sidewalk and they close the streets to car traffic. So you can just sit outside and enjoy the people while sipping your coffee and eating your cannoli. It was perfect weather, in the 80s with a breeze.

As we sat finishing up our great lunch I watched people buying sorbet from another street vendor next door who was selling sorbet by the cup or cone. Her features were unusual. She reminds me of Wendy in Peter Pan, short dark brown hair and pointed nose, sort of whimsical.

We finally reached China Town. We shopped through several stores and found some sea slugs for just $135/lb. Yeah, you read that right, $135/lb for sea slugs. the stench in China Town is is dizzying. One New Yorker said the streets smell like an armpit passed gas. I'd agree. At one point I held my breath as long as I could. Before I took a breath I had to decide it I wanted to pass out from street smells or lack of oxygen.

We decided to walk down to Ground Zero but heard some music that sounded like bagpipes. When we got there, three Chinese men were making all the noise. They were playing a fret-less, two-stringed instrument held between the knees. Eric held the camera up to take a picture but the Chinese man told him: "Can't take picture, no picture." Yeah, sure, no problem. He took it anyway. This is NYC. If you're out in the street, you're free game buddy. What is he thinking? If you want a private show, rent an auditorium and charge people.

We finally made it to Ground Zero but it's just a huge hole. It's rather somber. People everywhere recording video and taking pictures of some of the displays. One display lists heros who lost their lives trying to save the people trapped in the buildings. Engine #10, the closest fire station, had their doors up and the guys were all sitting out on the bumper of the fire engine talking and laughing.

By now, we'd walked about two or three miles so we had to take the train back to the hotel where we crashed in front of the TV and learned about Kats, a deli restaurant on Houston street. Awesome pastrami sandwiches. It's where the New Yorkers go. Okay, were going back.

"College girl: The real reason I went to San Francisco is that I wanted to go to Japan, but that was as far as I could afford." -Overheard at 14th Street 1/2/3 station

Saturday, July 23, 2005

NYC - The Met

Just as soon as we got to our hotel we were off again to find the 4,5 & 6 train. (New Yorker's don't call them subways, they call them trains.) Destination: The Metropolitan Museum of Art on 86th.

The woman in the token booth mumbled something and returned a card for my $20. What? What happened to NYC tokens?

I didn't realize until later that she put my entire $20 on a single card. Now I have to wand the card for each of us as we go through the turn styles. When I asked her how the other three people that were standing there with me were going to get through the turn styles, she grabbed her internal microphone and said from the other side of the glass: "Well you said you wanted one card." Yeah, sure, now you use that voice enhancer thingy.

We walked for about three blocks after getting off on 86th. We found a hot dog vendor and bought hot dogs for twice what they cost in front of the Met. But they were great. Which reminds me of an old stupid joke: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the NYC hot dog vendor? "Make me one with everything."

The Met exterior is under construction and was draped with curtains, that's right, curtains, long flowing material that covered the ugly scaffolding. You see, here at the Met the scaffolding has to be covered in some artistic way. But inside it was just as I had remembered. Of course, there were guys at the entrance checking our back packs, the result of 911 I'm sure. In fact, before we rode up to the Met, we walked through St. Patrick's Cathedral and they were making the same checks. I guess we are going to see that pattern. I just walked up to the long eight foot folding table, zipped open the backpack, they took a gander, and I was done.

Suggested contribution at the Met is $15 per person, but you can give anything you want.

My favorite part of the Met, if I could have one, is the European sculpture. You can walk right up to these life-sized figures, cast in bronze or marble, and look them right in the eye.

It was great to have Eric along this time through the Met because of his Art studies. He knew most of the artists, and why they sculpted or painted as they did. It was like having our own private Met guide. (I did over hear one of the group guides tell about a guy who gave his entire collection of baseball cards to the Met. One is valued over 1.3 million!)

It's unbelievable to me that we are looking at the actual paint that came from Rembrandt's brush and applied to the canvas. His self-portrait of about 1660 is awesome.

There are several cafes in the Met. One of them near the American Art is in a courtyard of fountains, sculptures and stained glass. Sure the Costco muffin is $3, but hey, this ain't Costco!

I don't know what I was thinking but I only brought a single pair of shoes for this trip. My feet are killing me. The pain would be so much less if they'd just sever my feet at the ankles. Please, please, put me out of my misery. I brought these flat things that have absolutely no support. It's like walking on concrete in bare feet. I need to sit down in this cafe. I need to find another pair of shoes. Where can I find a cheap pair of shoes?

The weather was outstanding. It was in the mid-80s and there was a slight breeze coming up the south of Manhattan. We decided to walk to the Hotel, well actually, Ruth decided "it's a great day to walk, I love to walk" she said. Well, I do to but not 40 New York City blocks worth! But I was overridden. Off we go blithely down the Central Park trail, not a care in the world, except it turns out, my feet. Ouch!

Central Park was great. There were artists everywhere.

For $20 you can have a great charcoal, pencil, or pastel picture drawn up. One old guy even had some flair. He'd had his pinky extended on his sketching hand and would quickly lift the charcoal from the paper with each stroke.

There were jugglers, face painters, radio controlled boats, and musicians everywhere. What looked like a teacher and her students were playing a Bach concerto near the pond where you can rent radio controlled boats.

We stopped by an Italian pizza place and wolfed some slices and sodas.

We crashed at 10:00.

Girl: " do you actually eat Lucky Charms in Ireland?" -Overheard at Wall & Broad

Friday, July 22, 2005

NYC or bust

I spent about eight years in NYC back in the late 70s and early 80s. Every five years or so we migrate to the Big Apple. Tomorrow we leave for about a week's stay in the city.

Our plans are to visit The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Central Park, Brooklyn Heights, Ground Zero and Times Square. We've heard that the city (that is the people of the city) have become more friendly since 911. I don't know, maybe I'm jaded, but friendly New Yorker's? It's an oxymoron. That's like saying I've got a truck sports car. How can THAT be? It no make sense. We'll see. We'll know soon enough when we get in the taxi. That's usually a good gage of niceness. I just don't think it would be the same if the taxi driver doesn't insult me when I get in. I'll feel like I'm visiting another planet.

We'll be staying at 46th street and sixth avenue at a Super 8. It's got some great ratings and lots of good feedback, continental breakfast, iron, blow dryer, and free wireless Internet. So I'll bring the iBook and post some pics here in the next few days.

It just seems all like a dream. Nice taxi drivers, free continental breakfast, free wireless. What is this world coming to?

"A car is useless in New York, essential everywhere else. The same with good manners." -Mignon McLaughlin quotes

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Sit up front!"

Got a call from my boss to sit up front during the Monthly Planning Reviews (MPRs).


Each project is assigned an architect. I'm assigned on about 15 projects. We give technical direction, especially in the early stages of the project, and general guidance during the implementation of the software solution. We "shepherd" the projects through various "tollgates" or review boards with all kinds of technical people poking at the project for flaws.

Each month a few projects are selected for a "deeper dive" and review by the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and his executive staff. Basically these are folks that "crunch the numbers" and figure out why the project is costing more, or taking more time, or needs more resources.

During this 30 minute review (but some last all day) the presenters sit in the front of the room while the executives throw stones at them and the project. It can be brutal. Since I don't do the presenting but only attend if there are technical questions, last time I sat off to the side.

Last month, while the review was in progress, and I was minding my own business, sitting on the side, I got a high sign from my boss to go and sit in the front at the presenter's table. She wants me to be visible. I'm fine in the shadows, 'I'll just sit here.' I motioned to her. She scrunched her brow and shook her head.

Later she told me in clear terms that next time I must sit in the front.

I just got a call from her about our MPRs tomorrow. Guess what her concern was? Not resources, not being over budget, but . . . you guessed it. Sitting in the front of the class.

"Our director wants us to sit in the front with the presenters. You MUST sit in the front."

"Yes, mom."

Several of the team overheard this silly request and think I ought to feign amnesia, sit on the other side, or give her hand signals that I'd never thought of, let alone give!

It really doesn't matter to me where I sit in the room, as long as I can be heard in the event that I need to be. But it's all about image I suppose.

That's the corporate world.

"I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame it on you." -from the Boss

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My Uncle and Ants

My uncle Richard has a new hobby. His kids have all grown up so he has decided to adopt ants -- about 25 large harvester ants. He keeps a daily journal of the progress while living in his simulated habitat.

I've learn more about ants than what I found in!

Here's a few facts from Richard:

Ants represent .001 % of earths insects, there are more than 10,000,000,000,000,000

The Queen creates male ants about once a year, they exist solely for mating.

People who study ants are known as myrmecologists.

He writes: "Although ant workers can carry up to 50 times their own weight, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that,
if a Harvester ant escapes the AntWorks and gets on your hand, they can flip you clear across the room."

He bought the ant farm at and the ants at

He's even sent some pictures. Here's one of my Aunt checking on the ants. (She may be thinking about checking out, since these have checked in. Hey, don't bump that thing, whatever you do!)

The whale is endangered, while the ant continues to do just fine. -Bill Vaughn

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Listening has become one of the endangered species. I truly believe that listening is dying off. It was once found on every continent of the world, but now, it's only only a few islands of society.

Terrorists blow up people because they can't listen and understand another's perspective. Or maybe, they think no one is listening to them and this is their way of turning up the volume. But that only makes people deaf.

There are some people that attempt to listen but they don't understand the words (although they may speak the same language), and so go their own way without any understanding.

Some people only like to talk. They are not "into listening" to what others have to say. Because mostly they don't care.

The most interesting interchange I've ever witnessed was when someone cut the other person off in mid-sentence. They assumed they knew where the other was going but they took the subject on another tangent. The person wasn't patient enough to wait it out and fully understand the subject. Meanwhile the first person got upset and tried the wrestle the conversation back in their direction. It reminds me of two basketball players yanking the ball away from each other.

Some people just like to argue, so already their listening skills have atrophied. I mean, how could anyone claim to have any listening skills if their objective is to take an opposing view?

Others don't know how to listen. When they see a gap in the conversation, they barge in and take over and take it in their direction. They are like a driver that sees a gap in the traffic and rushes in to take the spot. They are scared of the dark and must have the spotlight centered on them. But a spotlight on an empty soul, still shows emptiness.

I don't claim to be a great listener. Sometimes the subject IS boring and, if I look around, and EVERYONE is bored, I'll jump in and "save the day" with a more lively subject.

Maybe we ought to do what is done when there is a shortage of gas. Odd numbered license plates fill up on odd numbered days, even on even.

Yeah, all those with an odd number of letters in their name can speak on odd numbered days. The others HAVE to listen.

We'll make bumper stickers that say: "Save the words."

I think I might be on to something here.

A wise old owl sat in an oak, The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard; Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Eric's Wisdom - Gone

Eric just had his wisdom teeth extracted this week -- all four of them! Ouch. He went under on Thursday for an hour. After it was all done Ruth came to pick him up. He was so groggy, they couldn't get him out of the chair.

I remember some months ago I had the same problem. I felt this peaceful bliss, a floating feeling, a fogged view of the world. I would hear voices and couldn't distinguish if they were from my dreams or they were real. I saw Ruth's face appear before me and ask (her voice out of sync with her mouth): "How are you feeling?" Great, dude, awesome. My periodontal work was a walk in the park compared to this!

But enough about me, let's talk about Eric. Thursday evening, when I went to bed, he was laying with an ice bag on his jaw. Poor guy. Ruth got him a Jamba Juice because he needed something nourishing inside. He hadn't eaten in about 16 hours.

I went out to get his drugs, ah, you know, the prescribed kind. I drove up to the window, looked up at the girl, gave her my name, she gave me the drugs and I paid $2.30 for four bottles and left. Whoa! When is the last time I paid that kind of pocket change for medication? Last time I bought medication it cost the equivalent of a trip to Hawaii. For example, we just got the bill for his leg. He got some stitches, and it came to $1200! For two stitches? He was out at Atlanta's Centennial Park doing some parkour and rammed his shin into a handrail. It's healing up fast. In fact, he decided to take the stitches out himself to save a few bucks. Crazy kid. So now he's a limping-lock-jawed parkour kid. "Ah, they're young, he'll bounce back." Ruth says.

Anyway, tonight I got us a few flicks to watch to help pass the time. One of them was Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious and the other was The Italian Job. The latter was a heist movie, cool chase scenes and some pyromania. Notorious was a classic black and white. I want Eric to see some of these classics.

I don't know, it's becoming harder and harder getting flicks I want to watch. I spent an hour in Blockbuster combing the isles for something not violent, not gory, not perverted and not demonized. Very hard. Most films had two or three of those elements and many had all four! As just a rough estimate, I'd say 50% were "R" rated. I can't believe people are watching this stuff. One woman at work told me she took her 13 year old to a flick and covered his eyes several time during the movie! Tell me this makes any sense. I really believe exposure to this results in the reality we see on the news -- but that's another rant.

I'm hoping Eric will feel well enough for our trip out to NYC. He's really getting excited about it. He wants to do some parkour in NYC's Central Park. At least there, the cops wouldn't try to arrest him for doing flips in a park like they want to here in Georgia. Seems like every time he goes to a park some over zealous billy-club-carrying guy in a cap and blue uniform tells them to get off the grass, or get off the wall, or get out of the park. They do (he usually goes with a buddy). I guess parks, like movies, are not what they used to be. You know, a place where you can romp and play. The boys never push it. They just leave to find another park. Thankfully. I'd hate to get a call from the local precinct. I mean, don't you just hate it when you get a call from the local police to come pick up your kid from prison?

That would be a bummer, especially if I were in the middle of watching a movie.

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others. -Groucho Marx

Friday, July 15, 2005

Vacation Pics

Just a few pictures from our last California vacation. These were taken with a 35mm SLR (FM2n w/20mm & 80mm). Walmart placed them on CD when I got them developed. Their developing is process is very bad, pay for the better development because it's worth it. Thankfully the CD images were straight from the negatives.

Muir Woods

Our group goofing off in Muir Woods

The Pink People

Cactus Toes: Shot in Napa at the Mustard Grill

Grandpa & Grandson

My family is boring. We keep a coffee table book called 'Pictures We Took Just to Use Up the Rest of the Film.'