Whirlwind Trip to NYC

It was a while ago but I've been busy. Austin had emergency quadruple bypass surgery and I spent a fair amount of time with him in the hospital. He's doing well and I hope he continues to do so. He did get an iPhone for Christmas so that should help.

So New York was a whirlwind trip - first an Amtrak train to Secaucus, NJ on Friday Dec. 12 to stay the night in Ben and Dennis' art-filled place which overlooks the NJ Meadowlands with the skyline of NYC in the distance. Some friends of theirs came over and Den served paella for dinner and it was marvelous.

Saturday morning I caught the NJ transit train to NY Penn Station and then caught the Long Island Railroad train out to Stony Brook to visit Tree. We walked on the beach (very cold), did a little shopping and then had dinner at her place with her neighbor Caroline and her cutey-pie 3 year old son George.

Sunday morning I took the LIRR train back into Penn Station and walked up to where my friend Diane and her husband Gary were staying near the Museum of Modern Art. We spent the afternoon in MOMA and I caught the 6:00pm train back to DC. It was hectic but I am so glad I did it.

I loved:
  • Ben and Dennis' place and finally seeing the meadowlands (marsh) that I have heard about on it the Sopranos and after discovering The Wrens, a band from that area. Word from Dennis is that Jimmy Hoffa is most likely buried in the Meadowlands.
  • Watching the world go by on the train - forests, streams, junkyards, small towns, big cities, art parks, graffiti - I love it all.
  • Seeing Tree's completed renovation. The last time I was there her second floor addition was just getting started.
  • Tree's butternut squash crockpot curry
  • Walking 20 blocks up 6th Ave from Penn Station to Diane's hotel. I stopped in Bryant Park to pay homage to Project Runway. I'll have to stop in all the bead stores I passed next time.
  • Seeing the Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave exhibit at the MoMA. Some of Dumas' art I found fascinating, beautiful and meaningful, some I found trite and shocking for shock's sake but I am so glad I was able to see it.
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The Meadowlands (click to see more pictures)

Thanksgiving 2008

Quiet day - good for catching up. This is a long one.

I got some good news yesterday. The injury that I sustained during my first Bollywood class and that has prevented me from going to ballet class was not a hip labral tear. This means it is something I can mend using physical therapy rather than surgery. And I now know that an MRI with contrast means a needle is going to be stuck into your thigh and then god knows what happened then to get the dye spread out. All I know is that it went on forever and I whimpered a lot and the students observing had horrified looks on their faces.

I have some pictures collected that I've been meaning to show. These two are from the theater at Towson University where Dana performed last Spring. The lipstick marks are in the stairwell leading from the stage to the dressing rooms. The other is from the dancers warmup class.

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And here are some pictures from the neighborhood

A decoration probably for Diwali outside a local Indian restaurant and the line I stood in for voting (It took 45 minutes)

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Here's some neighborhood graffiti at Howard University Law school and a nearby post office.

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This my office where I have several Graeme Rock originals.


TV show reviews

Mad Men
The design of the sets and costumes is amazing and the story line is so riveting. Every character is just so interesting. Roger Sterling has the best lines. Joan is the best bitchy-on-the-outside/vulnerable-on-the-inside secretary ever. I want to be Peggy (except for the hospital stay part). Don Draper is so cool even when he is a tortured soul.

Chuck: When it ended last season I thought it had lost its charm and seemed to be concentrating more on girl spies in sexy clothes. But this season there is more fun stuff going on with Chuck's co-workers at More Buy and there are fun disguises for the guys and gals.

Fringe: I like it most weeks especially the interaction between the mad scientist and his world weary son. The lead is pretty and tough.

30 Rock: Except for the first episode of the season it rocks!

Samantha Who?: Not anywhere near hilarious or ingenious but I still like it. Sidekick Andrea is the best thing since Patsy on AbFab.

And finally, a little video of a recent video chat. Little T, who seems to have learned a mischievous thing or two from his dad, figured out how to disconnect from the chat at one point.

Tough Times

Lenore had a rough week. She had been experiencing some stomach pain the past month and the doctor said she should get a CAT scan ASAP. She went to the emergency room and despite some incompetence that resulted in her waiting FOREVER a CAT scan was done and a mass was found. She had surgery on Monday to remove two tumors, one small, one the size of a orange. The pathology results are somewhat still a mystery but it is pretty clear that she will have to go through chemo again. The only upside to all this is that we get to add another picture to the family Scars & Scabs page (Viewer discretion advised, seriously). Get well soon, Lenore.

I had a busy Saturday. Dana performed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and so I tagged along to make sure my audio and video worked and to participate in the post-performance discussion. I had to speak into a microphone and everything! Nam June Paik's nephew Ken Hakuta (some may know him as Dr. Fad and the inventor of the wacky wall walkers) was there and he very casually told stories about his uncle (whose videos we used in the piece). After the talk someone actually came up to me to talk about the video and music. I almost felt like a professional.

When we got to the theater the museum had put down a floor covering for dance but it was in terrible shape - dangerously loose and rumpled. So the dancers and the crew got busy to smooth it down and tape it. No lighting person was provided even though they have state of the art equipment so Dana ran the lights on (he's taken a lighting course so he knew somewhat what he was doing). Despite all these difficulties it all went well and we had an audience of about 200 people. Most stayed for the talk.

Here's some footage of the dancers at work:

My dance friend Brooke and I went by Dana's house for a little get together with Ken Hakuta (he told more stories of his uncle and some of the famous people he has met like Yoko Ono) and then headed out to the far suburbs of Virginia to the ladies -only dance party organized by my Pakistani work friend Saima's sister and some of her friends. Many of the women (who were predominantly Muslim) arrived all covered up in scarves but within minutes of arriving were on the dance floor shakin' their groove thang. The shades of the rec center were drawn, the french doors were covered with black plastic, no cameras or alcohol was allowed. The dress ranged from conservative traditional to modern "western" cocktail dressy. There were women from ages 12 - 70. They played American, Hindi and Arabic music. The DJ was actually the girlfriend of a real DJ who specialized in World party music. The party was OK. If there had been other rooms at the rec center or a break in the music Brooke and I would have been able to talk to the women that Saima tried to introduce us to. It was just too loud to make any sort of personal connection. Brooke and I tried to do some of our Bollywood dance moves but were had trouble remembering them and no one else was doing them. It was still interesting though.

Goals and Threats

I have found another video game that I like called LittleBigPlanet. It is not easy for me to play but it is just so cute that I can deal with the failure and humiliation. It is like most games where there are goals (jump up on this ledge and pop all these little bubbles, or grab this star and swing over to the moon) as well as threats to your safety (fire, ghosts). You can even construct your own game courses. I probably won't get much better at playing but I will still enjoy it.

I have another video of the beer making process. It should be ready for tasting this weekend and if it is good it will be even better by Christmas.


"The dark, impersonal atmosphere is enhanced by Ryuichi Sakamoto's music, Laura MacDonald's sound montage..." says the Washington Post

"...and multimedia artist Laura McDonald..." says the Washington Times

"... a Laura Macdonald montage ...." says the DanceViewTimes

All three were positive reviews of Dana and his dancers and I am happy that I was part of it.

And here's a panoramic shot that Joe took of the new Chinese embassy that was just completed. He has walked past the huge construction site every day for the past three years


It's Over

For the last couple of months I have had my nose in my computer working on a music collage and video for my dance friend Dana's performance. I used 3 music pieces by Ryuichi Sakamoto, manipulating the songs by extracting parts to be used in later and previous sections and adding voices by the the dancers. The videos we used were very early (1960s) pieces by Korean video artist Nam June Paik. Dana was given access to all of Paik's films by Paik's nephew and we were free to do anything we wanted with them. I put in a lot of hours on this but I think it paid off. Everything turned out well. We haven't seen any newspaper reviews yet but Austin, William, Lyla and Tracy liked it.

Here's an excerpt from the music.

Here are some pictures from the performance taken by a professional photographer, not me.

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Witch's brew

I made a batch of India Pale Ale last Sunday and tomorrow I will bottle it. The batch usually makes about 2 cases of beer so I have been trying to save bottles over the last couple of weeks, When I checked last Saturday I found that I was short so early Sunday morning I went recycling bin diving in the refuse rooms on my floor and the 6 below. My experience shows that residents in this building drink more wine than beer, many don't know the difference between trash and recycling and many do their laundry at 7:30 am in the morning. I managed to score a 12 pack of empty Harp bottles and at least six other miscellaneous brands. So I am probably OK.

Here's what was happening Monday night:

And I was so happy that the little girl on the 3rd floor is exhibiting some new seasonal artwork on her front door. It's been a while.

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The little post-it on the left says "Burning Ben" with a drawing of a witch. On the right we have "Cackley Bradley" and a spider.

Capital Criterium

Joe and I walked downtown last Sunday to watch the Capital Criterium Bike Pro Race where about 100 riders did 85 laps around a 1km circuit on the streets near the Capitol. It was a beautiful day. There was a good turnout but it was easy to move around and see the race from several vantage points. Christian VandeVelde who placed 5th in the 2008 Tour de France raced and although he was in the final sprint he did not win. And conveniently the race was held near the Old Post Office home of the Masala Dosa and Mango Lassi.

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The race in the shadow of the capitol.

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The cyclists came around a corner to climb up a hill. In this lap Vandevelde was way ahead of the pack

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Vandevelde by himself early on and the group that scrambled for the win. The guy in red and blue won.

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Vandevelde signing autographs and a participant in the children's race.

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A white building against a beautiful blue sky and our lunch.

Photo Credit: The photos that look like they might have been taken by someone who knows how to work the camera settings were taken by Joe.

Dirt Baths

My dance friend Brooke and I took a Bollywood dance class last night. During the hour we learned about a minute of dance from a Bollywood film called Aarya. It was fun but exhausting and my quads are killing me today. We'll be back next week.

One of the things that makes me smile is birds taking a dirt bath. I secretly caught some on my camera recently.

An Afternoon in Snickersville

This week I was taking antibiotics for an infection and I thought I was going to die. Since Tuesday I have had a headache, nausea, backaches - no fun. I was not supposed to drink caffiene or alcohol - the coffee withdrawal was the worst. This morning I finally felt better after sleeping 11 hours. I had my appetite back so we had veggie rueben sandwiches this evening and I treated myself to a Rob Roy for happy hour. I drank it while enjoying the wonderful sunset Hurricane Hanna left in its less than spectacular wake.

So here are the last set of pictures from Latvia. The last day we spent at Maris' place, which was owned by grandfather and inherited by my mother and Aunt Zita and sold to Maris. He is renovating the house and has several renters. He has made a great office for his home computer business. He has kept the wonderful old shacks that he uses for storage and for aging the wonderful wines he makes from the fruit he grows. He has even kept the out houses and says that one of his tenants prefers them to the indoor version.

His rotweiler nicknamed Rosa is a bit scary looking but is very sweet. We were fast friends when I played her favorite game which involved turning on a high-powered garden faucet so she could try to bite the water.

Elma who was my mother's childhood friend still lives across the street. It was good to see her again.

We had a great feast cooked by Maris. His red currant wine is wonderful and somehow Paula managed to score a bottle as she and Lenore were video chatting in the kitchen.

Click for some pictures:

The street Maris lives on is hard to pronounce. It is Sniķeres Iela and is pronounced something like snitcheras ee-el-a. We just dubbed it Snickersville.

A Sad Day

Our favorite sandwich shop has closed.

Joe has been going to Schlotzsky's since it opened 14 years ago. I would join him now and then but about 2 years ago we started the habit of going there almost every Saturday after we got back from our various Saturday morning activities (cycling, dance class, sleeping in, etc). Both Lenore and Graeme went there with us when they were in town (Graeme ate two sandwiches in one sitting). We always sat close to the front near the big windows so we could comment on everything and everyone walking or driving or riding by. It was great for people-watching. Unlike most places there were several choices for vegetarians and there were at least 4-5 sandwiches that I liked. The seating area was quiet and there was free wifi. The proprietor was a quiet Sikh gentleman who was always there and many times was the sandwich maker.

Two weeks ago he came to our table and told us he was selling the restaurant and would be closing the following Friday. We were shocked and knew that our lives were about to change forever. There are several other sandwich shops around but most are loud, filled with kids or just serve food that is not that good. There is a decent cafeteria with a good salad bar and nice window seats but it is just way too expensive.

There will be a restaurant opening at the Schlotzsky's location supposedly soon. We'll have to wait and see if it is anywhere as good. Today we went to the expensive cafeteria and saw two other Schlotzsky's regulars - Mr. Calvert-Woodley-Wine-Seller and Mr. Old-Guy-Who-Likes-to-Talk-Politics. A third regular Mr Suit-On-A-Saturday was sitting outside at Potbelly's.

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Every one's been bugging me so here it is:

Christmas Contest 2008

Beer in Baltimore and Fish in DC

Thursday night I zipped up to Baltimore after work to see Atlanta friends David, Susan, Lane and Carson who were in town for a wedding. It was so nice to see them especially after I had not been able to join them this summer on our annual trip to the beach. After discussing all things technological and social networking with Lane and Carson, I took David and Susan to my favorite brew pub The Brewers Art where we talked up a storm. With all the beers they have to offer I still drank my old standard Uerige Alt. I promise I will get one of their house beers next time. David drank a nice Belgium beer which was also excellent. I think it was Saison DuPont. The evening ended too soon but I was happy that we were able to get together.


In other news I have been enjoying my aquatic themed birthday presents. Tracy gave me a beautiful Japanese print of two fish and joe gave me a waterproof headset for me to use when I swim laps and an iPod shuffle to go with it. I named my new iPod Shark.

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And here are some recent photos from around the house, some flowers from my balcony and a delicious vegetarian gumbo we made last weekend. Go okra!

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Saturday at the Ethnographic Museum

Saturday we took the tram and a bus to the Ethnographic museum - a large park where historical homes, churches, windmills and other structures have been transported to from all regions of Latvia. It provides a good sense of what life was like in the olden days. Some buildings date back to the 17th century. On this day there were many groups from all over Latvia singing, dancing, etc. It took a lot of walking to see it all but I think we did.

There was one great moment when my dad was resting on a bench and a lady tried to get her friend to sit in the small space next to him. My dad was a bit confused so he got up which made the woman ordering her friend to sit down feel guilty. In the midst of the guilt and confusion my mother came by and said "That's my husband" which just made everybody laugh. It was an exchange that was both uncomfortable and friendly. One thing I did notice in the stores and elsewhere is that the clerks were stern but helpful - a strange mixture.

We attended the final choral concert that night. It started at 10:00pm so we had time to go to the Pancake House for dinner where the best pancakes in Riga are served. We had been promising Lenore we would go there all week. We had been there at least 3 times when we were in Riga in 2005 and it is still good and cheap

The concert was lovely. We managed to find Ilze among the 10,000+ singers on stage. Her bright red roses helped.

Click image to see from out day at the outdoor museum and choral concert:
interior of an old home

TGIF in Riga

Friday Graeme went with Sandra, Gustavs, and Gunta to the Water Park in Jurmala where Maris's son Ansis works as a lifegaurd. Apparently they had tons of fun. I hung out at Maris's place (the house which my grandfather owned and was inhereted by my mother and aunt Zita and then sold to Maris ). He has done a lot of renovating and runs his own computer business with 3 employees from one of the renovated rooms. I talked shop with his web designer. He showed me what he was doing with Maris's business website and I showed him the NASA sites I work on and Dana's site.

After returning to the hotel I found Gunta and Graeme up on the roof, which they found through an open emergency door. I had to go up too. The sights were not as spectacular as they were from St. Peter's but they were still cool. And Miss Safety Lenore joined us too. It was a "if you can't beat them join them" situation. Our hotel Hotel Centra was very nice, friendly and clean but there were safety violations every 10 steps.

Later Gunta, Lenore, Graeme and I went to a restaurant called Dada where you fit as many veggie, meat, seafood bits in a bowl as you can and then hand it over for stir frying with your choice of sauce. It was good but probably the least amount of food/Lat that we had in any restaurant. Not complaining. It was a nice outdoor cafe and a nice little break from the heavier Latvian food.

By the way there is a TGIFriday's in VecRiga and Lenore checked the menu. It is exactly the same menu as in the US.

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Virtual Tour of Secaucus Art Gallery

Lynda and Graeme are up in NYC for a dragon boat event and they get to stay with Ben and Dennis in their wonderful hi-rise apartment with city views. I have never been to their place but I now feel like I have, only it was like one of those dreams where you just can't quit focus in on anything. Lynda set up their iChat application and they took me on a tour of their art filled place. I had met one of the artists Chakaia Booker so it was a thrill to see her piece there. Anyway, here is some documentation. Graeme eventually found the special effects.

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More Singing and Dancing

Thursday we took the claustrophobic elevator up to the top of St. Peter's church to see the bird's eye view of the city. What a beautiful site!
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On the left you can see the four zeppelin hangers that now house the central market. On the right is Dome Cathedral and that wonderful bridge over the Daugava River.
That's our hotel - the light colored building with the red roof.

Before we went up to the steeple I picked out a birthday present at Galerija Tornis. Thanks, guys. I love it.

In the afternoon we took the bus to Sandra's house where we were greeted by Gunta who travelled from Stockholm where she is getting her masters degree. It was great to see her. Sandra and Ilze put on a great spread which has been documented in pictures over at Paula's blog. My favorite dish was the wonderfully named "herring in a fur coat". We also drank Maris' red currant wine, another special treat. We even had singing as entertainment. Graeme sang They Might Be Giants' "Little Birdhouse In Your Soul" and Sandra, Gunta and Ilze sang Latvian Folk songs.

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We left Sandra's and headed to the arena for the Folk Dance performance. Because it stays light so late it started at 10:00pm so it would be dark for the big finale. The performance was so amazing - 16,000 dancers moving in and off the field so seamlessly.
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Here's Graeme and Ilze on the way. We were greeting by these dancing cell phones at the arena. He was doing this little dance just for me.

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Into the Latvian Woods

I had told my mother that I would like to get out of Riga and experience the Latvian forests, maybe something mystical or at the least one with mushrooms. My mother mentioned it to Sandra and Maris and they decided on a historical manor and forest near the sea in the Vidzeme Region. Sandra, Maris, Gustavs, Ilze, Graeme, Lenore, my parents and I visited the manor and then walked over an hour mostly along a nice wooden plank path to the Bay of Riga and back. The wildflowers and ferns were amazing and the sea was refreshing and calm. After our long walk we rewarded ourselves at a nearby tavern. It was a great and beautiful day.

Here are a boatload of pictures:


Station Break

I would like to take a break from my Latvia coverage to show you a piece of art that was delivered while I was gone. I was looking at pictures from an art exhibit in one of the Giant Robot stores in California and saw this really nice piece. It was a bit pricey for something I couldn't touch and see but I kept going back to look at it. I finally decided to buy it but I had to wait for the art show to finish. In the meantime I read that the artist Dan-ah Kim had traveled around the world shooting a music video for one of my favorite bands, Death Cab for Cutie. When I opened the box I was not disappointed.


It is about 10x12, mixed medea work nicely matted and framed. I wrote to the artist and told her how I came to buy it and how nice it was. I told her that my initial attraction was the forest that reminded me of the birch forests in Latvia. She wrote me back to thank me and told me that she had see the lanterns in Tunisia when they were filming the video She also said she had always liked birch trees. The work is called "Followed You Here".

Monday and Tuesday in Riga

Monday Ilze offered to show us around and we were happy to take her up on it. We went to the Central Market housed in 4 old zeppelin hangers - one for milk products, one for vegetables, one for meat and one for fish. It seems a little less busy and varied as in previous years but it was still fun to visit. The flower market outside is still hoppin'. We also visited that jewelry shop that I like. They really have the most unique jewelry that I have seen in Riga - Galerija Tornis.

In the evening we took a long walk to Staburags, a traditional Latvian restaurant where Dad ordered a beer bigger than his head. I had two small beers, one flavored with honey. I had beet soup again and sausages. On the way home we saw a large sign with the latvian word apdrošināšana which means insurance, a word we have always found funny - it has almost a thousand syllables.

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(first 3 photos from Lenore)

Tuesday we went back to the crafts market to visit any booths we missed and then met Ilze and Sandra at the University of Latvia to listen to Janis, Ilze's father, sing in a competition. The singers were in traditional costume, of course. We then went to Melnais Kaķis (Black Cat) for a late lunch - more potato pancakes for me!

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Arts and Crafts fair

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Singers in the hall and arriving

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On the steps of the university. We also met Janina, Janis' wife, who is also a singer and dancer. Sandra and Lenore sat across from me at the Black Cat - I think Lenore was eyeing my pancakes.

Graeme and Ilze under Sandra's watchful eye.

Later my mother and Graeme went to a symphony concert with Ilze and Sandra that they said was excellent. My father, Lenore and I went to Dome Square just missing the Seniors Dance Performance. We then went for soup, salad and beer. We caught Lenore with beer foam on her lips. Sandra and Ilze dropped off the best strawberries and sweet cherries that I have ever eaten. They have a garden at Janis' mothers place just outside of Riga.

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Markets, Parades, and Choirs: Could We Be Any Busier?

Sunday July 6 after our breakfast we went to Festival Arts and Crafts market where vendors from all over Latvia and some from Lithuania set up shop. It was amber, jewelry, books, toys, pottery, textiles, etc. There was also some singing and dancing. I bought a couple of souvenirs. Over the next couple of days I found these items in other stores, some for more money some for less so I guess it evened out. My favorite jewelry store had a booth and the best part was that their goods at the market were discounted. Score!



We then walked a couple of blocks to the parade, where ALL the singers and dancers walked, skipped, danced, waved flowers, yelped, sang. The parade had started at 11:00 but we knew the people we wanted to see would not be walking past until at least 1:00. We got their at 12:30 and left tired, sunburnt and hungry after 5:00. We saw my godfather from Chicago but Ilze, who was walking with her choir from Riga, we never saw her. When we saw her later that night at the choral concert, where she sang, said they started walking about 5:30.

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After the parade I had potato pancakes and beer at Ciao, Rasma!, a traditional Latvian restaurant. We then took the tram to the choral concert where we met up with Sandra, Ilze, Ansis, my godfather and 30,000 others who were there to sing or spectate. The tram was filled with singing teenagers on the way home. We got to bed at around 2:00am.

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Riga Bound

I thought that after the 15 hour flight to India this 7 hour flight to Amsterdam would be a piece of cake. Not so. I got no sleep and although I could drown out the screaming babies with music I could not drown out the unpleasantness of several screaming babies with unchanged diapers. But I have had no complaints since then (well, except for the internet service in the hotel room). I got a bit of sleep on the plane from Amsterdam to Riga. And while I was asleep Graeme tore his pants on a seat and I woke up to the KLM stewardess telling us we would be getting a goodie bag of small liquor bottles, champagne and juices as reparation. Score!

Our Latvian friends Maris, Ilze, Aina and Gustavs picked us up at the airport welcoming us with flowers from Maris' and Ilze's garden.



The first thing we did was head to the bank and grocery store. At the store I took some picture of the beer section and a young security guard sipping on a can of coke with a straw told me that no photographs were allowed. It was hard to take him seriously but I did. After Lenore arrived we headed out to walk around VecRiga (old Riga) and find a place to eat. We ended up eating a half block from the hotel under the clock tower of St Peter's church. The meal was great.

I should be packing

Instead of packing for my trip I am taking pictures of my skirts and watching the finale of Hell's Kitchen. A couple of weekes ago Lyla's co-worker Mrs. Ieng came to work in a nice skirt and when Lyla commented on it Mrs. Ieng told her how easy it was to make. Lyla then told me about it and so I headed to G Street Fabrics and scoured the cheap $2.97/yard table for pretty knits. I made 5 skirts for me and two for Lynda - no pattern, 1 seam, elastic around the waist, an easy hem. Here thay are:


Icelandic pop singer dreams

So Bjork is going to be in Riga two days after we leave which is too bad. It would have been great to see her there. I had a dream about her a number of months ago and then I dreamt about her two nights ago. It was a similar dream where I talked to her about music and art only this time my family was there - we were traveling - and I asked Lyla to take a picture of us. As Lyla was taking the picture I told Bjork about my previous dream about her and made sure her hair was not in her face. I woke up as Lyla was taking the picture.

We've had some intense weather over the last couple weeks. The bad part is that my after-work lap swimming has not been as consistent as I would like but the good part is that we've seen some beautiful black cloud activity, thick mist ion the trees and some rainbows.


Goodbye 867MHz, Hello 2.4GHz

i now have a new computer at work - a new 24 inch iMac! It was a hand-me-down from someone who left but it was only 6 months old. It is so much prettier and faster than my previous G4 867MHz desktop. Have a look.


And here's my lunch.


And here I am chatting with Lynda. We are both wearing red scarves made and embellished with Latvian design needlepoint by our grandmother Omite.


Flag Day

I did a new modified triathalon on Sunday. We did a 14 mile bike ride in the morning. I did a half mile swim with a little bit of sun bathing mid-day. And then the third triathalon event was Flagtography. We have many emabassies within walking distance. Joe informs me that the area is called International Chancery Center. Anyway it was a nice warm breezy day.

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Ethiopia and Jordan

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State Department and Bangladesh

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Israel and Egypt

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Slovakia and Austria

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Brunei and United Arab Emirates

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Pakistan and Malaysia

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Nigeria with Egypt in the distance and some flags at the University of the District of Columbia

We do not have cable but our building just recently upgraded their antenna so we get many HD and analog channels. It will never be as good as cable especially since many of the stations come and go but Sunday I was very surprised to see ShahRukh Khan on a talk show on my TV.


That Cone Thing That Dogs Wear

This weekend was hot! It was 80 degrees at 8:00 am this morning when we left for our bike ride but luckily when we descend into Rock Creek Park the temperature drops by over 5 degrees. Unfortunately when I am struggling to climb up the hill out of the park the temperature is also rising 6 degrees adding insult to humiliation. I was dying. But the warm weather has warmed up the pool so the water temperature was perfect when I took my first swim of the season. Last weekend the pool was not warm enough for me but at least someone was enjoying it.


And in other animal news, Dana's sweet dog Pico hurt his leg and has to wear a cone to keep him from licking, biting, irritating the wound. I felt so bad laughing at him but could not help it.


And here are some neighborhood pictures.

One of the Chinese construction workers building the new embassy has pimped out his hard hat.


And we found some plum trees.
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And finally I tried something new this week. My dance friends, Brooke and Marcia, and I went to a great Indian restaurant called Indique and I had appam, a rice flour pancake, with chicken curry. It really was delicious. Appam is from the Kerala region in southern India which is somewhat familiar to me because it is where one of my favorite books The God of Small Things is set and where Vasanth, the most talented dancer we met on our trip to India, is from.

Hey Y'all

Lots to cover. When you are ready here are the pictures

Thursday Austin and I drove down to Augusta to attend my first dance teacher's 30 year anniversary/retirement performance. it was such a great experience. I was thrilled to be part of it.

The highlight of the weekend was surprising Dianne. Austin and I sat with Debbie and Laura and watched the first half of the dance performance (kids ranging from 2 years of age to high school). (Dianne was busy backstage) During intermission I slipped backstage. When the second half started Dianne was told to sit in the front row and tthe MC, Dianne's sister Barbara who was also surprised to know I was there, announced that I had sent a a video congratulating Dianne. It was shown and then it was announced that there was another surprise - I was there. I walked out, managed to step down 3 steps without tripping and hugged Dianne. She was so surprised. Another friend that I danced with Cathy was also sitting there and she was in total shock.

After the performance we went out to eat and laughed and remembered even more. Much fun!

Other Highlights:

Augusta, Thursday May 29
Easy drive between DC and Augusta. I think we made it in record time.

Non-stop laughter with Debbie, Laura and Cindy. They are such a great family, constantly joking about themselves and each other. It was great fun reminiscing and finding out about their lives over the last 30 years. We yapped a lot so I got to practice my drawl.


Realizing that although southerners can be nice on the outside but not so nice on the inside most southern strangers are generally nice.

Driving around Augusta looking for old schools/hangouts. Austin knew where everything was. I would have gotten totally lost.


Edisto Island, Friday May 30
The drive between Augusta and Edisto is one of my favorites - nice forests, small towns, dilapidated shacks, tin roofs rusted. Austin and I stopped at an antique store where we looked but did not buy. Austin taught the proprietor the difference between Fiesta ware and Harlequin. I was at Edisto for 2 hours during which time I ate lunch and set up our old iMac for Dad and drank a beer (in that order).

Charleston, Friday May 30
Dinner at Blossom's restaurant with Lyla, Tracy, Austin, Lynda and Graeme was great. I had to have the wreckfish because of its name. The waiter was slightly obnoxious but when we mentioned our schedule he took charge and got us out of there in time for Lyla, Tracy and Graeme to get to the opera . When sloe gin fizzes are all the rage again by the end of the year he is going to remember that pretty lady who asked him how they could possibly not have any sloe gin. And Lynda will regret laughing at me too.


Austin, Lynda and I then went to Barnes and Noble and Harris Teeters. I think we made 3 phone calls to each other in each store. It was a lot easier than searching the aisles or yelling.

While Austin helped Lynda hang artwork on the wall I Video chatted with Lenore and Paula who have finally decided to join the club. It was Lenore's birthday. I think they celebrated mostly by eating lots of pie. Sounds perfect!

Rehana's 40th Party, Saturday May 31
Tahir and Rehana are NASA Goddard friends who I have known a long time although I hardly see either of them any more. Tahir planned a great party at a local hotel. The best part was the dancing. There was a great mix of disco, 80s and Bollywood dance music. My friend Saima and her 2 sisters were there and they knew the steps to the Bollywood songs so everyone gathered around and tried to follow along. I did not do too badly. We danced to two of my all-time favorites. It was so much fun.

Chaiya Chaiya


Dola Re Dola

A New Hill of Hell and Humiliation

Joe and I headed out for our 12 mile bike ride in Rock Creek Park this morning. The temperature was just right for my vintage baby blue wool jersey so I was lookin' good. About a mile in another cyclist pulled up next to us and started chatting. It turned out to be our neighbor that has ridden with us once before. He and Joe chatted some more while I just tried to keep up. He offered to show us the route he was going and a hill that was challenging. For some reason I said yes. I was ready for some extra miles but not that hill. I had to walk most of the way - how humiliating! It was a very pretty street with no traffic so I may try it again one day. We ended up doing just over 17 miles.

Here are some miscellaneous pictures I took recently:

More new balcony flowers
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A blouse I made in the sewing class I took. It turned out pretty well!

And here's a fun little scene in the local grocery store.

And Lynda had a pink flamingo friend join in on our video chat tonight.
And all of a sudden there was Tracy too!

More Beer reviews

Clipper City Red Sky at Night Saison Ale and Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale are from a local Baltimore brewery. I really like the Red Sky at Night Saison Ale. It has a nice full taste, just slightly sweet. The web site lists the ingredients. I had no idea there are so many different types of hops but I do know there is a world-wide hops shortage. Oh no!

Hops: Magnum and Styrian Goldings
Malts: Pils, Carapils, and wheat malts, Belgian candi sugar

The Hop3 ale is OK.

Hops: Magnum, Centennial, Chinook, Amarillo and Palisade
Malts: Crisp English Pale, Carapils, and Munich

I will definitely buy the Saison Ale again.

Spring Vegetation

So I did my annual planting of annuals on my balcony on Saturday and on Sunday the annual emptying of the murky green pool water took place 15 floors below our balcony. Way too much excitement for one weekend. And that does not even include the excitement of having dinner over at Lyla & Tracy's place Saturday night with Austin, Ben & Den and the Nicolosi family. And we might have a convert to the Church of Video Chat in Den. He just got a new Mac with a built in webcam.

The water from the pool was pumped into Rock Creek which I guess was ok. I suspect all the chlorine was gone and that sludge might have actually been full of healthy vegetation. The pool was filled by Monday morning and will probably be 60 degrees until the middle of July. It opens next weekend.


Here are some flowers I planted. It's Thursday and I am still sore from moving around pots and boxes in a small 5x13 foot space.

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Saturday night dinner where everything was great but Austin's Sauteed Spinach with Gorgonzola cheese and Star Fruit was the big hit.

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And speaking of Video Chat here's Lyla and me chatting with Graeme's sushi dinner.


Not burning down the house

I took Zita to Dana's concert in Baltimore where my "music construction" for the new dance piece he is working on premiered. It went pretty well. It was in a nice theater and the audience seemed to appreciate the whole concert. Here are two pictures I took during dress rehearsal. My camera cannot take pictures of movement in the dark so I have to settle for "artistic effects".

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We like candles but we don't like fires so we have purchased the next best thing - LEDs that look like candles but won't be burning down the house. We have two types - the sleek candelas and the playful candeloos. Here is a candeloo with a friend.


30+ years ago

Back when I was in maybe 7th or 8th grade I joined the synchronized swimming team at the YWCA because I decided I did not like being on the competitive swim team and my parents insisted that I do something. That was the beginning of my destiny. Someone there suggested that I work at the YWCA day camp during the summer and I said the same thing I say about every major decision in my life "Sure, why not?" So I signed up to be a counselor and rode out to Lincolnton, GA singing camp songs with a big yellow busload of kids every week day for most of the next couple of summers.

Here's some of the counselors. I'll have to ask Lenore what she was doing there.

The director of the camp, Dianne Clements, happened to also be the head of the dance department at the YWCA and it was at camp that I discovered I might have a talent in dance that might extend past the flapper dance routines I choreographed to songs of the 1920s, 30s and 40s for a bunch of friends for the talent shows at Aquinas High. I remember Brother Phillip telling me that they really did not do the charleston to big band music but that I should not stop because it was "all good" (ok, he did not say exactly that but that's what he meant.

Dianne is in the white dress. We had some sort of costume event which is why we
all look like we're from a different era. That may be her daughter Cindy next to her.

So because of my work at the camp I then became Dianne's assistant at the Y during the school year. It was a great job. We taught ballet, tap, jazz at several locations around Augusta and we would go to out-of-town dance workshops to learn new routines that would inspire our choreography for the recitals held at the end of the school year.

When I met Dianne she had two preteen daughters who were as different as night and day. Cindy was blonde and lived to dance. Debbie was brunette and more of a tomboy who was both a bundle of energy and prone to sitting back, observing, taking it all in.

About the time I left for Chicago after college Dianne opened her own studio - Augusta West Dance Studio. I lost touch with Dianne and her family but they obviously had a profound influence on my life. And now they are back! Debbie called me to tell me that Augusta West is celebrating its 30 year anniversary. It was great talking to Debbie although I am always afraid that I won't remember something or someone. I did not do too badly although when I talked to Tommy later in the day he told me he went out with Debbie and that he went to the day camp for one session. I don't remember that. Dianne, Cindy and Debbie are all doing great. Debbie's 12 year old daughter is named Laura, which is so cool!

Here's Dianne again. I told Debbie I was not photogenic but despite the dirt I look fairly glam here.

I do hope to somehow help them celebrate their big anniversary by visit or via a video. We'll see.

Bitter lessons

So my feet have made it into Paula's Blog in her Picture of the Week with the caption "It's almost warm enough to wear Crocs again. Is Laura as excited as I am?" . Well I've been wearing my crocs since Paula gave them to me as a birthday gift in July. I love to wear them when I cook.


And speaking of Pictures of the Week. Joe sent me a link to a series of PhotoShop tutorials called You Suck At PhotoShop. You learn while you laugh. The guy's lessons are usually motivated by some humiliation he is experiencing as he goes through a nasty divorce For this week's Picture of the Week (Austin's new ride) I consulted his tutorial (#4) where he places his wedding ring in a barren desert and puts the final picture up on eBay.

Click to see the original.


And Joe imbedded a picture of me in a fun Japanese style lunch.

Spring Things

Paula asked me to take some pictures of the cherry blossoms and a movie of the petals falling off the trees. Now we could have gone downtown and risked falling into the tidal basin but we played it safe and just went across the street to the University of the District of Columbia.Now I realize there was no real onslaught of cherry blossoms there but there were some nice sightings.

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Quicktime movie (5.2 MB)
I should have added the sound of crickets chirping.

I come from a predominantly non-musical family (I was in the Virgin Islands when Graeme was born so how do I know he was not adopted?) so it may come as a surprise that I have been asked to create a musical score for a dance piece. Luckily it involves mostly computer work - using existing song samples, vocal recordings, special effects. Could be fun, could be the downfall of a highly-praised choreographic career. I'll keep you informed.

More Beer reviews
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Stone IPA is brewed in California and is mighty fine with lots of hops and a nice clean taste.

Stop Action Animation and Dress Forms

Usually when I hear of Eastern European animation or puppets I run screaming in the other direction but I have to say that the animated version of Peter and the Wolf they are showing on PBS is excellent. This version is dark with glimpses of humor and a different ending. It is a Polish-British-Norwegian model stop action animation production, took 5 years to make and won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film this year. Here's a taste:

We're watching the 3rd season of Project Runway on DVD. It is the best reality TV show ever. And in our neighborhood it looks like a fashion academy has opened up. Here's some items featured in their front window. It's hard to see but the man's suit is on a female dress form. It still looks snazzy though.

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And here's just some fashionable umbrellas seen a little further up the street:

More Beer reviews

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I like wine from Anderson Valley in Sonoma County, CA so I was interested to see how they do with beer. Although this Hop Ottin' IPA is not my favorite Indian Pale Ale it is still quite good. The flavor is nice but the hops are a little too subtle. I would buy it again.

Spring/Latvian Pig Man

Spring is not quite here but we did encounter some early spring flowers on our walk this weekend. The college campus across the street has many Japanese cherry trees only just starting to bud but we found one that seems to have jumped the gun.

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Near this tree we found a little patch of wee blue flowers.

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And speaking of Nature I have been doing some research on the Latvian forest preserves in hopes of visiting some of the magical, mystical rural areas outside of Riga when we are there in July. I ran across Cūkmens, the spokesperson for a "Don't Litter" campaign in Latvia.




If you want more here is a fun video

New Video Page

I have a sinus infection so I've had some extra time on my hands. I organized all my little and big videos on one page and then made a new slideshow from Christmas.

2008 Oscars

So I think everyone knows by now that No Country for Old Men was my pick for best movie at the Oscars. I am usually more interested in the Oscar outfits than in the actual movies. I think I became disillusioned after Shakespeare In Love and then A Beautiful Mind got Best Picture. Those were not good movies but maybe there were no really good movies those years. Around that same time Gladiator and Lord of the Rings rightly won so I should not have been quite so disgusted. Many of the movies this year were quite good so it was an interesting contest. Atonement was the only one I thought should not be on the list. It was more fluff than substance and the music was used way too heavily to make me feel what I should feel. It was interesting that No Country hardly used any music at all.

There are some directors who in my mind can do no wrong. The Coen Brothers are almost on that list. Their movies are always good but they can get sloppy and lose track (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?). "No Country" was probably their tightest and best acted. The top two directors on my list right now are Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. We just recently watched Darjeeling Limited and Broken Flowers. Wes Anderson makes dysfunctional families look like such fun and Jim Jarmusch is so good at portraying personal journeys. They both use casts of quirky characters. Their scenes are stuffed with weird little situations and details, a well thought out color palette, great dialogue and meaningful, interesting music. Wes has used the same techniques in his commercials for American Express, AT&T and this little gem for IKEA (Qicktime movie, 4MB).

OK, enough looking down my nose at movies other people like. Here are some fun pictures from a recent trip

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Tommy and Mickey's contribution to breakfast. Mickey has on fabulous pajamas.


Lynda and Grandee, who is right out of a Ellen Gilchrist novel

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Some goodbye waves


Despite the fact that I wish I had more time for blogging and video editing I took on a paying web design job for a local non-profit company. It may lead to other work that I may or may not want to take on. I enjoy the work but it is so time consuming.

My hair is getting way too long. It hasn't been this long since the 70s. Lyla and I are going to get our hair cut together in two weeks so in anticipation of that event I thought I'd put this picture from Zita's photo albums online.


Rickshaw ride

In Chennai Tati and I took a rickshaw ride to Pizza Hut one afternoon to get a snack. It was about two blocks away but Dana did not want us to cross the wide and unruly busy street we needed to cross to get there so we hailed a rickshaw. We eventually realized that "we should have been there by now" but the driver kept going. We eventually said something and he said said "no entry" meaning the Pizza Hut was on a one-way street. We eventually got there and he tried to charge us way too much (there are meters but they are not used). I argued with him a bit but we still gave him the money. As we were about to climb out he seemed to have grown a conscience or something and gave us half the money back. I have no idea what the price should have been or whether it really was a one way street but I felt a little better that he gave us some money back. After we split our pizza we took our chances and crossed the street. It was definitely scary even with a policeman directing traffic but it was free.

But I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. After my mother asked me last weekend what my favorite part of the trip was I realized it was just driving around Chennai looking at all the bright rickshaws, couples and families on motorcycles, women in saris on scooters, ambassador taxis, oxen, diagonal trees, buses with only men, buses with only women, people walking in the streets even in the few areas where there were sidewalks, little temples, little stands selling something with men standing all around, women of all social statuses wearing beautiful saris and decrepit apartment buildings that immediately reminded me of locations of Indian novels I have read. The road between Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal) was also fascinating.

So here's the fuzzy youtube video. You may see Tati and me in the rear view mirrors at the beginning and a man with no legs at the end. You may hear me asking the the driver what's up in the middle:

By the way, I am no where near the first person to upload a video of a rickshaw ride in Chennai, India.


The Washington Post announced two Sundays ago that they were looking for panelist for their second Annual Beer Tasting and since my favorite beer Brooklyn Lager won last year's event I thought I might be qualified. Apparently I was not. I sent in the required one sentence application and the optional picture but I did not hear from them. The decision for panalists was to be made by this past Friday. Oh well. I probably would have had to taste some pretty bad beer.

But on the good beer front I tried two beers recently


Nugget Nectar made by Tröegs Brewing Company, Harrisonburg, PA is one of those highly hopped beers that I like. I thought from the name that it might be a fruity beer but the Sikh proprieter of the local liquor store recommended it so I read the label more closely and saw that hops, not fruit, was what the title refers to. I gave it a go and it was worth the trip. I also discussed my recent trip with said proprieter. We were buddies before but we are now BFFs (not really but since I have been to his country of birth he now knows that I know that Indians do not naturally say "Have a good one" when they give you your change.)


Fuel Cafe Coffee Flavored Stout made by Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, WI is well made. Stout is not my favorite beer (although I certainly drank plenty of it in Ireland) but I felt this beer had a nice balance of beer and non-beer flavors. The coffee taste was very subtle.

Here is the one sentence I sent to the post:

Back in 1993 the old coot in the beer supply store could not believe a young woman was actually making beer and in 2008 I am still brewing and blogging about the new beers I try.

And the picture I sent:


Fun Science

Joe and I walked downtown during the holidays and we passed this elephant. It was part of the project that all cities seem to promote where some sort of animal/thing is painted. We've had panda bears and elephants/donkeys. After they've been exhibited at various locations around the city they are auctioned off. We see them in yards and in front of buildings and usually we look and say "I get it" or "That's cute/lame". This one though kept our attention for at least 15 minutes. It is really quit clever. It is located in front of the American Chemical Society building.

Click to see closeups:


Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Day had finally arrived.

Our driver for the day was Ashok. Here is what we know about him. He is from a village near Jaipur. He married a woman of his same caste from a nearby village (intra-village marriage is not allowed). They now live in Delhi and have a son and a daughter. His son plays cricket and his daughter is the top student in her class. He learned his more-than-adequate English from tourists. He has been sober for 6 years and prays to Hanuman the Monkey God every morning.

Ashok and his ride in front of our hotel.

Here I am in the front seat ready for action.

Along the three hour drive to the city of Agra and the Taj Mahal we encountered oxen, camels, monkeys, boa constrictors and cobras. Once in Agra we added elephant to the list. When we stopped at a place to pay tolls we were surrounded by vendors including these animal handlers. Tati gave them some money to take pictures. I tried to ignore the whole circus.

We saw a temple dedicated to Krishna in the distance in the town of Mathura where Krishna was born. It seemed weird to be driving through of town where the 8th avatar of Vishnu was born. I see in the Wikipedia that Krishna and I may actually share a birthday,

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Oxen along the highway. Note the snake behind the monkey.

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I love the picture of the man selling elephant rides and photo ops.

We hired a guide to tour the Taj Mahal for 250 rupees ($7.00US). The entrance fee was 750 rupees. Han gave us very good general facts about the history and architecture and knew all the right angles for pictures. We were lucky in our timing apparently. The week before there had been long lines to get in. We breezed in after being wanded and searched by security.

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Maja and I outside the entrance and my ticket.

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We had to wear socks near and in the main building. Here Tati takes a picture of her "shoe socks".

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Flooring and wall (marble with semi-precious stone inlay) detail

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Han our guide is with me and Maja.

After leaving the Taj Mahal Han said he knew of craft shops that had quality goods and asked if we would like to shop. We were like "Duh???". He was pretty upfront about the fact that he got a 1% commission from these places. I appreciated his honesty. So we headed back to the streets of Agra.

I like the decoration of this rickshaw in Agra. The sari on the motorcycle was also nice.

We went to a place where they made marble similar to the facade of the Taj Mahal. I managed to resist the huge marble table tops they were offering (i can only imagine what it would cost to ship a marble table top) and bought some small items.


We then went to a jewelry shop where I had no intention of buying anything but charming Amit insisted on finding something in my "price range". He started with Star of India rubies, diamonds and gold but we ended with a small Star of India ruby and silver. It is a simple but lovely ring. Maja bought some lovely birthday presents for herself.

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We then took the 3 hour trip back to Delhi, ate a quick dinner and headed to the airport to leave the continent.

Photo Credit: Tati took many of these pictures.


Maja, Tati and I traveled on a different airline than the rest of the group and due to airline scheduling we had to spend a little more than a day in Delhi. On the day of the performance Tati and I called 10 hotels before we found one that had a room for the three of us. We had no idea where it was in the city but the person taking the reservations assured us we were in an interesting section of town. He was right. When we looked on the map we saw that it was near many historic sights and best of all- there were wide sidewalks.

Unfortunately by the time the cab dropped us off it was already after 4:00 and would be dark soon. Fortunately along the way we saw some of the sites that we had hoped to walk to if we had gotten there earlier. So instead of site-seeing we shopped at a great area just down the street from the hotel in the Sunder Nagar area. This is where I bought bronze, wood carvings and some beads.

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The Shops of Sunder Nagar

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The bead/wood carving store was run by a father and son who were quite nice.

We ate three meals in the hotel restaurant due to time constraints. The food was pretty good but the beer was not. The selection wherever we went was, like, one brand - either black label or Kingfisher. Kingfisher was the best we had.

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Trying to get out of Chennai

So we left the hotel around 6:30 AM for the Chennai airport. Our flight was delayed by more than an hour due to fog which was a bummer since we wanted to do some sight-seeing in Delhi before it got dark.

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Fog at the airport and drinking coffee next to the men's bathroom and the announcement booth.

Here is an example of Engrish that we laughed about while waiting.

This is possibly a shrine on the runway

We liked the idea of flying on an airline called Spice Jet but Indian Airlines had nicer, cleaner planes and free food.

Breakfast Indian Style

I promise the emphasis on food here on out will be minimal but I had to show you breakfast and one of my favorite foods - these little rice patties called idly served with a coconut sauce. The papaya, pineapple and little bananas were also quite nice. The breakfast at the hotel was served in the hotel's chinese restaurant.

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Performance day

We arrived at the theater about 10:30 and we were there until after the performance. My duties included security detail, last minute music CD production, videographer, and Master of Ceremonies. As Master of Ceremonies I stood in the dark using a light on the lighting board to read a description of each dance, the poems some of the pieces were based on, and the names of all the dancers before each piece was performed. The hardest part was the names of the Indian dancers but I practiced the pronunciation with the dancers before hand so I think I did OK.

John Britto had some huge posters made up to place outside and inside the theater. The dancers were quite flattered. after the performance we all got T-shirts and a nice plaque that mimicked the posters.

The performance went really well and there were several nice reviews in the Chennai papers.

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The posters

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Dancers warming up and me in my new lace blouse and official John Britto crew badge with Shu-Chen and Katie

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Tati with Apu who was so helpful. Maja and I with John Britto and company

A Day of Mostly Eating

We spent Saturday morning in the studio while Maja went to the theater to get everything oganized for a run-through. There was a television crew at the studio to film class (with Dana's and John's dancers and me) and rehearsal.

Some of John's dancers. Here's Vijay on the left - a good dancer with a nice moustache and pony tail, then Vasanth - the best dancer in the company, Nanda - another good dancer who wore cool sunglasses, Johnson in the back - he was awesome helping me bargain with the tailor and Sachin - an aeronautics engineering student.

Before going back to the hotel we stopped at a little store near the studio where I bought a lacey white blouse for $5. We had lunch back at the hotel at Meenam where I had the Indian equivalent of the Pu Pu Platter - Vegatable Thali. It was actually quite good. I also had lassi!

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The company coming out of the clothing store (note the lack of sidewalks) and lunch

I took out my iPhone to calculate how much to pay for the bill and the manager and his waiters (there are usually twice as many waiters than in the US - all men) were all over it. I showed them some of features and used it to take a picture

Things were not going well at the theater so there was no run-through although everyone sat around at the hotel waiting for it.

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Shah Rukh Khan on TV and on the street, the Shiva temple in the hotel parking lot and a view from the room

When the word came that there was no theater time it was time for dinner so Tati, Miyako and I went to dinner at the other Indian restaurant at the hotel. I had aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), Tati had a stuffed green banana dish and Miyako had a cheese and veggie kabob which she threw up later.
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Temples, Stalkers and Fortunes

Thursday was a run-through of the performance from about 10:00-2:30. I took the company class and then videotaped some stuff and worked on my computer. Around 2:30 Dana taught a class for some college strudents from Loyola College. They were all on a dance team and most have never taken a modern class. Results were mixed. After class Dana's dancers demo'd some pieces and then the college students danced their hip-hop dance for us. There were very funky and enthusiastic.

Very few women do any type of dance except classical Indian dance. As I mentioned before there is a real separation between men and women. It is rare to see a woman on the crowded buses that we see during rush hour but there are "women's buses". The maids in this hotel are all men as are the waiters and the hotel clerks. But there are plenty of female business women here. They just don't take the bus.

After we left the studio and got showered Tati and I took a wild rickshaw drive to the Pizza Hut. I took a movie and will try to post it to YouTube soon.

In the evening we went to the Council General's residence which was beautiful. The food was Indian and was quite good. I sat at a table with two diplomats, the head of the dance school John Britto who is responsible for dana's trip here, and 3 members of a classical Indian dance troupe. When I mentioned Shah Rukh Khan the choreographer said she hated him but I made her admit that he did have a certain charm and that he could dance.


Today (Friday) 2 of John Britto's dancers took us to Mamallapuram Temple about an hour south. As soon as we stepped out of the car a vendor was offering to sell us peacock feathers. One guy followed me around trying to get me to buy sandals. I made the mistake of trying them on. They were pretty cool but he really annoyed me. He was hard to shake. The dancers were calling him my stalker. This goat was eating the marigolds attached to the front of a car in the parking lot.


The temple on the beach was very beautiful. It is dedicated to Shiva so there are stone carvings of bulls (his "ride") all about.


There is a narrow passage that goes aroung the center of the structure. One is supposed to go aound it 3 times for good luck. He I am with Tati after my 2nd circuit.


The two dancers that were with us helped us immensely to buy stuff from the vendors. I went into a fabric/clothing store and with the help of Johnson (his real name) I had a long top and pants made of a beautiful silk in one hour. Johnson haggled with tailor for about 5 minutes and the tailor reluctantly settled for ~$20. But there were obviously no hard feelings because Johnson was writing down my measurements for the tailor as he took them.

My fabric is the blue he is working on The orange fabric is a shirt Kelly bought that needed to be taken in.

We then went to an artists' working area where we did some more shopping and many of us had our fortunes read. I had a Tarot card reading that involved a parrot and that predicted that in the future my family won't help me but my friends will. Hey, what's up with that? And I will live to be at least 85. Oh I will also be travelling in the same manner as I am today often.

Here is my Tarot card reader reading someone else's fortune.

Some of the other dancers had their palms read. Here Alvin (his real name) translates for Shu-Chen. Her readings were much more personal. That scared me so I went with the Tarot reading.



Dana's dancer Tati and his lighting designer Maja and I were set to fly to Chicago and then to Delhi but when we got to the AA ticket counter we were told that we would not make the Delhi flight because of a plane delay due to bad weather in Chicago. We were extremely lucky that they were able to get us on a set of Continental flights that get us to Delhi about the same time. The 15 hour flight was long and boring but we made it!.

The food was either american or Indian. I opted for the Indian dinner and American breakfast on the Delhi flight and then Indian breakfast on the Chennai flight. Rush Hour 3 with jackie Chan, the lastest movie with The Rock and several Bollywood movies were showing on the entertainment system. I watched Rush Hour 3 and some of the Indian films. My screen was crappy so I could not read the sub-titles.

We arrived in Delhi around 10:00pm and went through customs. That took about an hour but we were just so happy to be standing up we did not mind the wait. And we talked to a Sikh from Houston who was visiting his family in Punjab. My first unusual experience was the sea of men lining both sides of the walkway leading from the customs area to the rest of the world. There is definitely more of a deligniation between men's and women's activities. Picking up passengers with little cardboard signs is definitely a man's activity


We waited for two hours in the International passenger transfer area. I worked on my computer, watched a family whose son was about to marry his bride-to-be but they had not figured out exactly which bride-to-be would be chosen. The father was very enthusiasc about the whole ordeal- the son, not so much. The guard who checked people as they entered and exited the waiting area had this great moustache. Before we left I asked him and his associate, who had a gun slung across his shoulder, if I could take their picture.

At 2:00am Delhi time we boarded a bus and drove about 20 minutes to the domestic terminal. The shuttle manned by a a driver and an armed guard went through the runway area - we had to stop for a plane at one point - and through various airpot services are. There were lines of planes, lines of bikes, lines of Ambassador taxies, lines of men on a smoking break seen through a smokey haze - all photo ops that I missed because it was just to rough a ride to hole the camera still.

We then sat in the domestic terminal for 4 hours waiting for our flight to Chennai. Luckily the coffee stand was open so we drank coffee, read our books, learned about Eastern toilets and the Eastern version of Western toilets and talked to various travellers - both Indian and American.

east_t west_t

Our flight to Chennai was very comfortable. I sat near the emergency exit so I had all the leg room in the world. Rush Hour 3 was showing again as well as some old school Bollywood music videos. Maja observed they were very "Annette Funicello".

We arrived in Chennai about 10:30 am. Dana, Connie and dancers from the local company met as at the airport The local dancers gave us heavy wreaths of rose petals and marigolds. We are happy to be here!

We checked in and then went to lunch at a nice outdoor cafe called Mocha. Note the hookahs. We then went to a shopping center where I just could not deal with all the haggling involved in buying anything. Some of the dancers bought some nice stuff. we then went to temple dedicated to Shiva. It was beautiful.

Note the hookahs!


Christmas Contest 2007 Pictures!

The Christmas Contest 2007 pictures are up!

I am almost ready for the trip to Chennai, India. I have taken the Typhoid pills and am stocking up on anti-bacterial cleansing products and mosquito repellent. I bought a new mid-sized suitcase on super sale at Macy's on New Years Day. I went to Target and bought some cheap thin cotton Tshirts in some nice colors. And I bought a pair of sandals made in Israel. What else could I possibly need?

I hope to find some wi-fi hotspots in Chennai to blog and upload some pictures. If you are interested you can also check http://dtsbco.blogspot.com. I actually may add some personal entries and pictures there

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Enjoy a some 3rd Floor door art while I put together pictures of this year's Christmas Contest.