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Burrito, Beer and Bed

The latest installment of my dog and pony show, Greetings Citizens, has been released into the wild.  I hope it survives and has the skills to evade nasty predators.


I'm pooped tonight, and would love to climb into bed right now if it weren't for the fact that it's not even 6:30pm and I haven't even had dinner yet.  I picked up dinner at Burrito Bandito, the best place in town for evenings like this.  Their burritos weigh like ten pounds and all the ingredients are fresh and yummy.  Tonight I will be pairing the meal with a fine beer, which sounds like heaven right this second.

I hope all is well with you.


I put up a new posting today on Greetings Citizens.  I hope you like it.

It was a long day at work, as I prepared our newest computers for the rollout this weekend.  Getting each machine ready isn't a difficult chore, but it's very exact and things can go wonky really quickly, which usually means you have to start the whole process over.  I'll be installing the computers on Saturday becaue it's about the only time I'll be able to do this without interruption and when I'll be able to avoid the inevitable criticism of the workers about how lousy our equipment is. I want to just be able to work in peace. Besides, it's hot, dirty, nasty work and by the end of the rollout I'll be covered with dust and sweat and I'd rather do that with as few people around as possible.

I hope all is well with you. Ice cream? Have some.


Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I added a new post to Greetings, Citizens.  You may also notice that I made a radical change to the format.  The style I have up now is what I originally used when I was testing things out but I think people found it a little confusing so I went with a more traditional layout.  Upon reflection, I found that I really missed the original style, and I decided to stick with what I liked best and what I most enjoyed.  I thinik it's a little more unusual, and I'm hoping people like it.  I hope you do too.

Go have a bowl of ice cream and then while you're relaxing and enjoying the tasty treat, take some time to check out the changes to my site.  I hope all is well where you are.


We're Live in 3...2...1


I finally have my site up and ready to be released out into the wild!  I don't really have an idea yet where I want to take things or what shape it will eventually be, but that's the main reason I started this in the first place.  I want to test some things out, add a variety of content (as soon as I figure out how to do that without crashing the entire house of cards), and hopefully create something people besides my Mom would actually want to look at and enjoy.

Right now my main limitation is the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm hoping all the scratches and dings will eventually give the site charm and a certain class.  We'll see.  My gal might not be the prettiest one at the dance, but she's full of vim and vigor and she's the one having the most fun out on the dance floor.  I hope you dance a couple of songs with her.  (And here ends the metaphor stretched so thin it's practically see through).

I do hereby give you...

GREETINGS, CITIZENS.



Barry Lyndon

I just finished watching Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" this evening and it wasn't at all what I expected. I've always found his films fascinating and surreal, which is amazing when you consider he kept the actual weird bits to a minimum. He managed to dole out goosebumps and shudders with long, strange pauses like no one else ever could. This film was pure drama, just a smidge over three hours long, and I'm not sure i can describe it in a way that won't make it sound like a stale old piece of toast. Ryan O'Neil (handsome as the devil in this one) plays an 18th century social climber and scoundrel who will do whatever it takes to move up the ladder. He pays, dearly, for his misdeeds, but at the same time I couldnt help but admire him. Feeling sympathy for a jerk makes you feel dirty somehow, you know?

Honestly, Kubrick manages to bring along a certain level of creepiness even when the characters are doing nothing more than sitting in a drawing room playing cards. But the scenes are meticulous and purposely slow and even when people aren't talking you still have a sense of who they are just by their body language.

A really interesting movie for sure. If you're interested in Kubrick's films at all, you shouldnt miss this one.

PS. Sloppy spelling, bad punctuation and weird syntax are totally the autocorrect's fault.
Summer has clearly kicked in for Northern California, and it's definitely welcome.  While I hate the heat, and I loved having such a cool and mild spring with lots of rain, it's time for everything to dry out and get back to our normal temperatures.  You know, when it's so hot that getting into a car that's 150 degrees inside gives you goosebumps, or when it's 85 degrees at 4:00 in the morning or when the air is so still it feels like the sun is an actual weight on your shoulders.

I've been in such a grumpy mood today, for a variety of reasons.  Some of it is related to work, but I don't dare talk about it here because it's my understanding that the internets are filled with spies.  Suffice it to say it's been a long year and I'm looking forward to my vacation coming up in a couple of weeks.  I've done my best to shake off my mood, but sometimes it's best just to ride it out and wait for the day to pass.  Which it has.  I'm ensconced safely in my home, air conditioning humming, with a gin-n-tonic in hand and watching "Barry Lyndon" which arrived today courtesy of the good people of Netflix.  "Barry Lyndon" is a Stanley Kubrick film, and I love all of his work (even "Eyes Wide Shut", which can fill a silent moment with such threat and dread that it creeps under your skin).  I haven't seen this one yet, but I understand it's one of his masterpieces and it looks interesting.

The website is still coming along, but I'm going to need to redo some things to make it a little less complicated.  I wish I had more time to dedicate to making everything look exactly the way I want to, but after spending nine hours a day peering at a computer monitor, it's hard to summon the strength to do more of that when I get home. 

Chris comes home from Arkansas (state motto: Sweet Baby Buddha Why Is It So Damn Hot?) tomorrow.  He went to visit family with his grandmother, who is a tiny little pistol of a woman that everyone adores.  He's ready to come home and escape the humidity and sleep in his own bed, but he apparently had a really great time.  He's definitely looking forward to dinner at anita_margarita 's on Saturday night, as am I.  I'm sure I'll have lots to report and some great photos.

Anyway, I'm rambling now.  Even though it's only 7:15, I could climb into bed right now and sleep the clock around, I swear.  I hope all is well with you, and wherever you are you're having a bowl of ice cream.

Popping By

I've been working furiously on the new site for the past couple of days (although perhaps I wasn't working furiously so much as I was working blindly), poking at new buttons and clicking on different menus.  It's been quite an education, and right now I'm adding some content into it before I release it into the wild where it will be seen by several people.  My vision is greatly hampered by my lack of design skill, but I'm going to work out the wrinkles and hopefully not end up with something that embarrasses me.  Well, any more than I already embarrass myself anyway.

Summer has certainly kicked in to Northern California, and today it was actually rather warm.  It's strange to think that I was wearing a sweater last week, and used the heater as recently as Monday, but our summers are epic and tend to last for many months, so I'm not going to complain about the reprieve.  I'll be whining come August 1st, I assure you.

My brother and brother-in-law and several of the kids are going to see "Super 8" tonight at the midnight showing and my brother was surprised I wasn't willing to come along.  I'm dying to see the movie before some smartass ruins the surprises for me, but I cannot sit through a movie and give it my undivided attention when I've been up since 5:00 AM already, and will be up again by 6:00 tomorrow morning.  I can't enjoy it like that.  I'm saving it for this weekend, when I'm sure the theater will be plugged with people, and the people sitting near me will forget that they aren't sitting in their living rooms, which leads to lots of "Why do you think he did that?" and "Frankie, where's the Junior Mints?  I know I gave them to you.  Yes I did.  Yes I did.  I did so.  Oh here, they are in my purse.  Why do you think that guy just did that?  Who is he again?"  The idiots always find me.  Always.

I've been lurking on LJ for the past few days, but I'm following posts regularly while I explore all the different ways I can screw up all of the work I've just put in to the site.  I hope all is well with you.  Now go get some ice cream.


Graduation 2011

Just so you don't think I'm biased about how beautiful my niece is. Just ignore the odd red glow from the cover of my iPhone, and please overlook the fact that it's one of the worst pics I've ever taken. It was very windy and rainy in the stadium that night, which didnt flatter me in the least.

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Awesome Night

I'm a proud Uncle Matt tonight. My niece graduated high school five minutes ago and as you can see from the photo, she's the prettiest one here.

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As Mentioned In Previous Post

Yum!

The whipped cream was so lovely, it deserved its own photo. Also, it elevated the Nutella crepes to legendary status.

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Three Whole Days Off

Today being Memorial Day means those of us who toil in public service (well, most of us) got a three day weekend.  Huzzah!  Our first three days off since the beginning of February, and our next day off won't be until July.  It's been a year since our alternate work schedule was removed, and I miss it just as much today as I did the first week.  It certainly makes one appreciate what a three day weekend feels like, I tell ya.

I was ridiculously productive, and for once it wasn't in a way that left me feeling spent and sore and mildly confused (insert dirty joke here).  Saturday Chris and I drove down to Vacaville where there a series of Super Awesome shopping outlets, and we found some ridiculously good deals.  It was fairly busy, but everything is so spread out that it didn't really feel crowded.  I bought some new clothes, a pair of shoes that make my feet look cool, and a few other odds and ends, but I committed a cardinal shopping sin; I found something I loved and I didn't buy it.  The price was pretty good, and I even had a coupon for an extra 25% off, but it felt like a bit of an indulgence and I left it behind.  What's more, Chris knew I wanted it and he didn't give me the usual pep talk about how I deserve to treat myself to nice things once in a while.  We just...walked off, leaving it behind.  It's such a rookie move I can hardly stand it, but sometimes even people with some serious shopping ninja skills make a mistake.  Live and learn, I suppose.  But...still.  I can't explain myself.  Please don't report me to the Gay Agenda, I'll lose my membership.  The trip was a lot of fun, no petty bickering between the two of us, and even though we drove through a deluge (see previous post photos), it was totally worth it.  I felt like we'd been on a mini vacation.

Sunday we were invited over for brunch to Barbara and Gary's with our friends Sue and Dick, where we had mimosas, steak and eggs, baked french fries and Nutella crepes (aparently there were also blueberry and cherry crepes, but my heart belongs to Nutella, always).  The weather was nice and mild and we had such a good time hanging out and laughing.  I'd kill for a mimosa right about now.  After I took Chris home, I took the most wonderful nap and woke up feeling like one million dollars.  

Today I had a mishap or two, but it did not sully the progress of the entire weekend.  I got some really nice coffee beans and spent some time this morning grinding them to use in my french press, but when I went to put everything away the coffee container slipped out of my hand and ground coffee went everywhere.  I only lost about a quarter of the total, but that stuff?  Is HARD to clean up.  It was all over the front of my pants, my socks, the rug, the counter, the sink, everywhere.  I spent a good half hour cleaning it all up.  I turned things around by reorganizing my office and getting everything nice and neat and tidy, which pleased my inner neat freak.  I've spent the rest of the day learning about web design and whatnot, which is fascinating and intimidating and a special nerdy kind of fun.  I've got grand plans, I do.

It's time to figure out what I want for dinner, which is no mean feat.  I'm leaning towards turkey burgers at this point, but I'm open to last minute substitutions.  I'm back at work tomorrow, but at least I feel like I not only got a lot done but I also had fun and got plenty of rest.  Hopefully this short break will be enough to carry me through the coming weeks.  I'm rather grateful that it wasn't hot this weekend, which is what we can normally expect from Redding this time of year, but it feels a little like summer might never come.  Of course, in August I'll be laying on the floor in a swoon, complaining of the heat and moaning while I point every fan on me.

I hope all is well with you.  You know that ice cream I keep urging you to have?  You still should.

Last One

In looking back through the photos, I think I rather like this one. The focus is on the water on the window instead of the background, but I think it has a beauty of its own too.

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Whoa

We drove through an intense storm on our way home from Sacramento, but this was waiting for us on the other side.

It was the brightest rainbow I've ever seen. We saw the double rainbow to our east and then another big one directly behind us to the south. The view to the west wasn't bad either.

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I have little to report, so naturally I take keyboard in hand and post a ramble.  Maybe to make it interesting I'll remove all punctuation and spelling so the whole thing reads like one really long word of crazy.  I suppose some might say I'm already doing that with spaces and punctuation, but those people are rude and stupid and probably wear plaids and patterns at the same time.

As I mentioned recently, last week at the grocery store I saw a Hot Beggar with a sign that read "Trying to bring sexy back."  Last night I was at that same store and saw the same Hot Beggar again, but this time he was sans sign.  Still hot though.  I wonder what his story is.  I strongly suspect it's not as interesting as I want it to be.  But if he's a ne'er-do-well, I don't want to know. 

My mom took me out for Chinese food tonight, and I had the cashew chicken, which was superb.  Just the right number of cashews, not too salty, not slippery with brown sauce.  The people at that restaurant are very friendly, and they were doing a brisk business, and this pleases me. 

I'm starting to suspect there's a wormhole located in or near my office which is disrupting the normal flow of time in my region.  Even when I'm busy and I suddenly check the clock in fear that I've somehow missed lunch (unlikely, but possible), only ten minutes have passed.  I must investigate this further because something just ain't right.

Okay, Sarah Palin.  She might run for president, she might not.  But she doesn't actually do anything.  Like, she has no job.  No repsonsibilities.  No authority of any kind.  She's been bobbing around for nearly three years now and refuses to go away and quit being on my tv.  Part of me hopes she does run because what the hell is that idiot even going to talk about?  Embrace those teabaggers, Sarah.  Hold them close to your simulacrum of a heart because they will sink you like a brick in a pond.  Crazy racists just aren't as charming as they used to be.

Bah.  Enough politics.  Who even brought that subject up?

My guiltiest of all pleasures starts tonight, and I cannot wait.  "So You Think You Can Dance" is such cheesey fun and I never miss a season.  Lots of sweaty choreographers shouting, "FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT!  KICK AND KICK AND KICK AND KICK AND...JAZZ HANDS!"  It feeds my soul, this nonsense.

A three day weekend beckons, the first one in many months.  I have some retail therapy planned for Saturday, which might help improve my mood of the past few weeks.  Shop the pain away, yes?

I hope all is well where you are.  Go have some ice cream.

As Promised

Chris at the wedding, all fancy like...

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Weekend End

It's been a busy weekend, and I swear it feels like I was just sitting at my desk in my office mere moments ago.  How does the week take 512 years to pass and the weekend is only 17 seconds long?  I'm beginning to suspect there's a temporal anomaly located on or near my work site.

Events of the past 24 hours:

1) I reached a new level of Random Gardening yesterday.  There's LOTS and LOTS of stuff that needs to be done in my yard, and since there's so much, I ended up spending a couple of hours doing many things half-assed.  I've got a tree along my driveway that apparently loves me so much that it wants to expend valuable energy showering my property with teeny tiny purple balls/seeds/insturments of slippery death.  Stepping from my car to my door almost always means I've got the tiny little ball things wedged in the treads of my shoes, which further means I've tracked them into and all over my house.  So, to remedy this problem I hosed off the driveway, but only part of it.  And since my driveway has an awesome slope that points towards my garage and not the street, everything I washed off ended up in a giant pool in front of the garage door.  Naturally, it's still sitting there.  I managed to rake the leaves that fell off the tree in OCTOBER, but only in the courtyard.  I also trimmed the hedge along the fence, but only as much of the hedge as I could reach.  The snow we had in Janury/February bent the branches down, so the entire courtyard has had this looming green wall ever since.  I took care of some of the problem, but I'll need to get the ladder out and finish the job properly.  That might not be until September at this rate.

2) Chris' sister got married yesterday, and the ceremony was lovely (although a little on the conservative side for my tastes, i.e. the word "obey" was used).  Her husband is English, and his relatives were present, and one of the women had the most AWESOME hat I've ever seen in person.  It was like a tiny little top hat with a bow and some kind of lace thing, tipped at a jaunty angle.  It sounds odd, but somehow she rocked it.  I didn't get to meet any of the English people, for reasons that are complicated and irritating and (mostly) irrelevant, but according to Chris, they were very hard to understand when they spoke to each other in their home accent.

3) Chris was one of the ushers, and he wore a black suit/shirt with a white waistcoat and white tie and he looked stunning.  No joke.  I think it was the most handsome I have ever seen him, and he basically looked like a movie star (I'll post a picture later).  I took Cindy as my date, and she wore these big black Jackie O sunglasses that made her look like a movie star too.  I wish I had dressed up a little more, but it was warm yesterday and I get overheated very easily and I didn't want to be the sweaty guy in the church.

4) The reception was held at Chris' parents' house in the back yard, and it was groomed like something out of a magazine.  Seriously lovely.  The wine flowed like wine, and I definitely partook of my share, and the food was pretty darn good as well.

5) Chris has a cousin from Arkansas who was present, and she is probably about 10 years old.  She took a shine to Chris and followed him around like papparazzi with her camera.  She took about 50 pictures of Cindy and I, but I'm not exaggerating AT ALL when I say she took about 500 photos of Chris.  She was giggly and cute the whole time, so it was not nearly as irritating as it could have been.  It was a little like having an entourage of one.

6) This morning I registered a domain name (I feel so modern!) for an idea that was cooked up last night, and I hope to have more to say about that in the future.  I've got a few ideas I want to work out.

7) This afternoon we're having a barbeque at my brother's house for our birthday, which was last Wednesday, and I'm very much looking forward to that.  Brian and I always have the same thing for our birthday dinner, hamburgers and hot dogs and tater tots (don't laugh, you love them too) and milkshakes.  My Mom is also making one of her kickass fruit salads, and if I don't come home with a gut ache, then I will have done something wrong.  My nephew Todd has been in town for the past few days, and he leaves back home to New Mexico tomorrow and I'm going to miss him terribly.

I hope all is well where you are, and you're eating ice cream.

Boom!

SO FULL OF WIN. My new Superman cookie jar, courtesy of a total stranger on eBay.

There isn't really a spot on his nose, it's the photo.

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Murano Island

I came across these photos tonight and I don't think I've posted them before.  They're of the day trip we took out to the island of Murano in the Venice lagoon.  If you've already seen them,and there's a high chance you have, well...mi scusi.

The boat is waiting...Collapse )The boat is waiting...Collapse )
 


Awwwwww

Yesterday I had my crankies on, for no good reason that I could determine, but managed to shake them off by the end of the day. I actually found three things that made me smile in spite of my sour puss.

1) As I walked into the post office to drop off some mail, I was greeted with a chorus of cheerful chirping, courtesy of a box of chicks that was sitting on the counter, apparently waiting to be picked up by a customer. I've heard of baby chicks (is that redundant?) being sent through the mail, but had never actually seen it before. The delighted *peep* *peep* *peep* of the flock of pre-chickens (who were clearly all friends) was enough to melt the hardest of hearts.

2) As I left the grocery store, I saw a young guy panhandling with a sign that said, "Trying to bring sexy back. Anything helps." Oddly enough, he was doing a mighty fine job of that, since he was already ridiculously cute in a stoner/hippie/drifter kind of way. He didn't get any money from me, but he got a big grin and a nod.

3) As I drove home from the grocery store, I crossed the river through a cloud of cottonwood fuzz that swirled around like something out of the final scene from a romantic movie where the guy at last gets the girl he's been pursuing for the last two hours but circumstances and misunderstandings have been keeping them apart. The sun was just starting to set, and the fluff floating around was quite beautiful, and I couldn't help but be utterly charmed with the universe's final attempt to turn my day around. It totally worked.

Edited for clarity!

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A News Cafe


Come on over to anewscafe.com and see my latest article on Florence!  Having it come out on my birthday was a nice surprise, I gotta say. 

I hope you enjoy it!
P1010116-1.jpg

The Battle for Wildflower Hill

Yesterday was the Paintball War 2011, fought on the battlefields near my brother's house.  There's a large tract of land adjacent to their property that's undeveloped, making for a perfect place to wage a pretend war.  I'm normally against guns and shooting and all that sort of thing, but I choose to see paintball as an elaborate game of tag.  A game of tag that can leave bruises and one in which stuff happens very, very quickly.

As a photojournalist, I documented the day's events...Collapse )

Odds and Ends, Chapter 27

It's just been one of those weeks, you know?  Every day had a fresh new "WTF?" moment, and some had more than one.  Some of the moments were "Oh sweet baby Buddha, what now?", and there were a whole handful of moments that need to be tucked away behind a locked post because the walls have ears, if you catch my drift.  And to top it off, there's some stuff that I'm simply going to have to keep to myself permanently because I'm truly bound to silence (at least one person here knows exactly what I'm talking about).  Not to be Secret Squirrel and all, but at least that not stuff that relates in any way to me personally.

Anyway...

- This morning I'll be out playing paintball at my brother's country estate.  I'm not a very good shot, I'm and far too tall to be able to hide well, so I anticipate being covered in bruises within seconds.  What usually happens is I spend a few minutes crouched in the grass, peering into the bushes, and just as I think, "Is that a person or a shadow?" I hear *thip thip thip* which is the sound a paintball gun makes when it's fired at you.  Getting shot with a paintball stings, but I'm already learning how quickly time passes in a family and missing out on spending time laughing and playing with my nieces and nephews would sting even more.

- Speaking of time passing quickly, my brother's oldest daughter turned 18 last week and I'm rather shocked at how that happened.  Seriously, she was in diapers just a couple of months ago and all of a sudden she's this lovely, brilliant, funny young woman.  She was the first baby I ever held, and the first person I ever saw grow up from the moment she appeared in the world, and it's a pretty awesome experience.  I may not be a parent, but I adore my nieces and nephews as much as if they were my own and I'm a lucky man to be related to such great kids.  Well, actually, three of them are now adults (24, 21 and 18) but you know what I mean.

- May is The Month of Birthdays in my family and we have six birthdays in a two week period.  Yikes!  To top it off, Mother's Day is smack dab in the middle and this year we also have one child graduating from 8th grade and another one graduating from high school.  My birthday is mixed in there too, but I get to celebrate by attending a long meeting with people ranked far above my position.  Hopefully the day will pass by without too many problems, and isn't that the most any of us can hope for?

- My treat to myself this year was the recent purchase of an iPad, and it arrived on Monday.  His name is Giovanni, and he's a charming fellow with all sorts of awesomeness and cool features.  Honestly, you wouldn't believe how convenient and lightweight it is.  Giovanni will be perfect to take with me when I travel, and weighs a lot less than my laptop.  It's perfect for watching Netflix in bed, and I've already downloaded the Amazon Kindle app, which allows me to use it as an e-reader.  I ordered a case too, which should arrive today and then I can stop holding Giovanni like a precious newborn who could break into pieces at any moment.  Instead I'll hold it like a toddler who can break into pieces at any moment, but should be able to take a gentle tumble if any accidents happen.  Uncle Matt has butterfingers, for sure.

- To add to the Week of Stuff that Kinda Sucks, I turned on my computer a few days ago and noticed that the power light to my external hard drive wasn't coming on.  The hard drive where I store all of my travel photos, videos, files and stuff I've had electronically for the past ten years.  Upon doing some Googling, I found that this particular model (it's a Western Digital) tends to abruptly stop working, as the power source apparently was made out of rubber bands, lint, gum and broken pencils.  Thankfully, I found a source on ebay that sold a replacement part, and the guy shipped it to me quickly.  Now I'll be able to retrieve all of the files off the hard drive and move them to something a little more secure.  So, Matt's advice for the day/week/month/year is DO NOT buy any products by Western Digital.  If you ever go into an electronics store and look for that brand, you'll notice that they always have LOTS of them on hand, which means other people have figured out how shitty they are too.  I wish I had learned this earlier, but at least I'm able to fix my mistake.

- In a tiny bit of good news, I went to the doctor yesterday for a routine followup and found that my blood pressure seems to be under control now, and is no longer at a Stroke-Is-Imminent level.  I don't smoke or have diabetes and I'm not overweight, so I'm one of the lucky people who just magically get to have high blood pressure for no good reason.  Stress probably doesn't help any (the main cause of which is one of those locked posts I referenced earlier), and I'm finally keeping an eye on my sodium intake, so hopefully I've got a reasonable balance in my life.  I wish I wasn't on medication for this, but it's a small price to pay in the long run.

- I saw the movie "Thor" last week, and it was totally entertaining.  I know it's not highbrow fare, and it's not Masterpiece Theater, but sometimes it's just really nice to just sit back and be told a goofy story with lots of pretty pictures.  It doesn't hurt that Thor walks around with his shirt off at one point.  I do love me some Natalie Portman, but frankly she wasn't very good in this movie and had zero chemistry with the Thor guy.  Also, she's like three feet tall, and Thor is my size, so lots of their shots together were up close so he could stand in a hole while she stood on a box.  Perhaps that's what I need to do when I interact with people.  "Sorry, could we talk over here?  There's a low spot right next to a chair I'd like you to stand on, so I won't have to look at the top of your head while you look up my nose."

- The weather today is just perfection.  Not hot, not cold, not rainy.  I'm having a hard time doing anything more complicated than staring out the window and listening to the birds while I drink some coffee.  But I'd better get my butt in gear and get moving soon.  I need to find clothes with the thickest padding, to help protect me when I get hammered with paintballs while I'm crawling on the ground trying to figure out what the heck is going on.  Wish me luck, comrades.

I hope all is well with you and you're having ice cream at some point today.  You've earned it.


Day of Remembrance


I've never seen or heard of this before.  Every year, the entire country of Israel comes to a standstill for two minutes in rememberance of the Holocaust.  Even on one of the busiest highways, they all stop.  At the end of the two minute siren, everyone carries on about their business.  Stop and remember, but then life goes on. 


Borrowed from andrewducker , who always has lots of interesting links on his blog.

iPhone pic of the day

Tonight's sunset. Such incredible gold light!

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Odds and Ends, Chapter 26

- The past week was at least 60 years long.  Each day felt like a decade and after work when I'd tumble through my door at 5:05 pm, I'd lean with my back against the door like I was being chased by zombies (which, since there's a window in my door I'd be a fool to go to my house because I could never barricade it solidly enough).

- I watched the royal wedding yesterday, live.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  It came on at 3:00 am in California, and even thought I had to be at work at 8:00, I still watched it.  My mom had my youngest niece staying the night (it's spring break here) and mentioned that they were going to watch it, so I invited myself over too and before long we also had my oldest niece and my sister and her husband joining us.  We ate pizza in the middle of the night and laughed and provided droll commentary and smirked at the right places and smiled at the others and it was more fun that I could have imagined.  Listen, I understand why people weren't the slightest bit interested in the wedding, and I understand their disdain for those who were.  However, I felt like I really needed to watch something grand and overly complicated and unnecessary, with all of the sad and terrible things happening in the world.  It felt good to focus on something that was pretty and romantic (oh hush, it was too) and had lots of bright colors and weird hats.

- The hats.  THE HATS.  There wasn't a single one that was so weird that I couldn't love it.  Even Beatrice's Egyptian-magnifying glass-bubble wand-croquet hoop was awesome. 

- David Beckham looked the most smashing I've ever seen him, which is really saying something for a man that handsome.

- Kate's brother?  Yeah, some of that please.

- So, even though I had been up since 2:00 in the morning, I made it to work bright eyed and bushy tailed AND I even stayed late to finish helping with a staff furniture/office shuffle.  It's too bad that going that extra mile isn't something the higher ups will ever appreciate, but things have to get done, you know? 

- I managed to stay awake until 9:00 last night before turning in and sleeping like a log.

- This morning I headed out to get my hair cut, and thankfully got the girl who does a really great job and not the one my brother and I call "The Mangler."  Seriously, that woman somehow manages to make a haircut painful.  It's like she slaps your head and cuts each hair with a pair of rusty shears, all the while getting more and more animated as she talks, which doesn't improve her skills at all.  The Mangler has been there for a while now, and I'm afraid she'll never leave/retire/get fired and I'll have to live in fear of accidentally getting her when I come in. 

- Immediately afterward I had to take my car in for a minor recall, and spent an hour waiting around while the salesmen talked like idiots and farted practically on top of me (I wish I was kidding).  I wanted to wander the lot and look at some of the new cars, but I didn't want to interact with the apes in any way.

- It's an utterly beautiful day today, and I had grand plans to work in the yard and accomplish all sorts of important things, but I'm not feeling great so instead I stayed inside and took a nap.  Maybe I'll get to the yard work tomorrow.  Maybe.

- Okay, confession time.  Last week I drank the Kool Aid and bought an ipad.  Right now I have a desktop computer that's at least five years old and a laptop that I bought last year.  The desktop is beginning to run slower and slower, so I figured I make my laptop my work horse and use the ipad for when I travel.  My brother happened to have one of the new ones purchased by his school and let me take a look at it, and it's so awesome I decided it was worth it.  It's on back order, and I'm dying for it to already be here!

- I hope all is well where you are.  I'm following LJ every day, but have had a low profile for the past week or two.  I encourage you to have a bowl of ice cream tonight because you deserve it.


Bread and Tulips

A couple of years ago I was watching tv on a dull Sunday afternoon and came across the movie "Bread and Tulips" (also called Pane e Tulipani in Italy), and naturally since it was Italian I thought I'd check it out for a bit.  I totally fell in love with the movie.  It's about a housewife living a mudane existence with her husband and two teenage sons.  When they go on a vacation, she is left behind at a rest stop, and decides she needs a break from her life and hitches a ride to Venice.  While there, she finds herself and all the things she's missing in her "real" life.  This is my favorite scene from the movie, which I just discovered is available streaming on Netflix.  It's a short clip, so I hope you take the time to watch it.  

The few seconds of a man at the beginning and the end isn't relevant to this bit.  In the scene, our heroine picks up an accordian and begins playing after many years away from the insturment, and I just find it such a marvelous moment (and rather sexy, actually) and her friend suddenly sees a new person unfold before her.

I hope you enjoy it...

 

Sunrise in California

On my walk to work this morning I saw a sunbow! The whole sun had a giant circle around it, but the left side was the most beautiful. The pic doesn't quite do it justice.

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Venice Photo Journal Chapter 2

Gosh, has it really been a week since I posted last?  It's partly because my desktop computer is really slow these days and posting pictures can become very tedious very fast.  I should have poured a glass of wine before starting this post so I'd be more mellow, but I will soldier on regardless.

As usual, photos behind the cut...Collapse )

Finalmente, Photos!

I'm laid low, home from work today and figured since I was trapped inside, climbing the walls, I may as well get my mind off how I feel and start posting some photos from the trip.

They're tucked away behind the cut so your browser doesn't open in slow motion...Collapse )
 


Misty Morning Sunrise


I finally, FINALLY got my Venice photos uploaded and it only took 2.5 hours.  I'll be posting some soon, as I finish up some other chores that are begging for my attention.  Like the lawn.  And the yard.  And the laundry....

I miss Venice.

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Vroom!

Remember how gaga I went over the goofy Vespa coffee mug Chris bought in Florence last year? I've kicked myself ever since for not buying one too.

Well guess what I found on the Rialto Bridge in Venice?

They had the big ones AND the wee ones! I also picked up a wee green one for Chris to match his. I almost squealed when I found them, I didn't find them anywhere else in the city. WIN!

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Venice, Random Concert

I belive I've mentioned this scene before, but here's the video.  It's one of my most favorite memories of Italy ever.  I came across this group singing (like a flash mob of elderly people!) one night after dinner near San Marco.  I had tears in my eyes practically the whole time, and I still get goosebumps.  I also posted this on my Facebook page (are we FB friends?  Add me!).

It was just one of those moments you never forget, and I'm so glad I had my camera on me.

 


 


Venice, Finalmente

Obviously, I’ve arrived home in one piece from my Italy adventure.  It was a short trip, but absolutely marvelous and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to go. 

On Friday, our last full day in the city, we went to St. Mark’s Basilica.  My brother really wanted to see it, so we saved it for a day when he was free.  The square was pretty crowded with tourists when we arrived, but we were able to get right in to the church.  It’s a breathtaking space, with the most intricate mosaics you can imagine.  What look like brightly colored frescoes on the ceiling are actually scenes composed of tiny pieces of tile, many of them gold.  The floor was extremely uneven in places, which is apparently caused by the subsidence of the ground beneath the basilica.  My brother and sister-in-law had downloaded a Rick Steves audio tour of the church onto their iPods, which was both free and interesting and he explains the history of St. Mark’s and what each piece of art represents.  One of the most fascinating items in the entire church was the altar piece, which is used during important ceremonies.  The entire piece is at least five feet across and is covered with gems stolen, um “liberated”, from Constantinople during one of the Crusades.  Rubies, topaz, emeralds and pearls in the hundreds.  Apparently the most valuable and important part is the blue enamel work, the most ancient example anywhere in the world.  It was truly stunning.

We headed up a narrow flight of stairs to the loft (I not sure what else to call it) where they have the four life-sized copper horses that used to adorn the front of the church (they have been replaced with copies).  They date back some 2,000 years, and at one point were stolen by Napoleon and taken to Paris.  I can certainly see why he’d want to have them because they’re beautiful.  The loft overlooks the interior of the church where you can see the mosaics on the ceiling very close up and I still can’t get over how incredible and detailed they are.  There’s a doorway leading from the loft to a terrace outside that has a perfect view of Piazza San Marco.  We were very lucky to have such beautiful weather the day we went because the blue sky and sunshine made the whole area look like something out of a movie.  Just incredible. 

After leaving the Basilica we grabbed some lunch and sat outside in the Piazza watching the pigeons and pedestrians while listening to tuxedoed musicians playing “Ma Vie en Rose” and “Cielito Lindo” outside one of the cafés.  We next headed for the Rialto Bridge for gelato and some last minute shopping.  It was then we discovered that there was a transit strike, with none of the water buses or public transportation running that day.  This normally wouldn’t have been a big deal, but we had a flight to catch early Friday morning and the only practical way out of the city is by public transport.  The water taxis were a VERY expensive option (around $175 for a 20 minute ride), so we did some research and talked to the clerks at the hotel who assured us the strike would be over by midnight and we wouldn’t have any trouble getting to the airport. 

We had a rather lousy dinner (the food gods did not smile on us this trip), but made up for it by finding some very awesome gelato.  I ordered a scoop each of strawberry, pear and melon, and even got a smile from the grumpy clerk for giving him exact change.  We then watched the sunset over the Grand Canal and slowly headed back to the apartment to pack for the return journey.

We had to leave to catch the waterbus at 3:30 AM in order to catch the first airport shuttle, and let me tell you that Venice is an eerie city in the middle of the night.  We saw random people wandering around, but didn’t really feel unsafe, and our rolling suitcases sounded like drumbeats in the silence.  Thankfully, the transit strike was over and we reached the airport without any fuss or bother.

The flight home was fairly easy on me, mostly because I slept a lot and also because the guy sitting beside me was really cute and didn’t need to get out of his seat 500 times.  I didn’t even sit through one entire movie because I kept nodding off which rarely happens to me, but I’m so happy it did.  We were late getting out of Frankfurt, but they more than made up the time before we arrived in San Francisco.  We were supposed to have a five (!) hour layover in SF before our flight into Redding, but thankfully there was an earlier flight we managed to get on, and we arrived home much earlier than expected.  That $50 change-ticket fee was the best money I’ve ever spent, I swear.

I typically have jet lag for a few days when I arrive home, and while I’m ready for bed by 6:00 PM, I’ve managed to stay awake until normal hours and that’s getting my inner clock reset.  It’s good to be home and sleeping in my own bed, but I find I’m really missing the sounds of the city, and the evening passegiato (stroll) after dinner, and the afternoon cappuccino in the piazza near the apartment, and, as always, the gelato.

I feel really fortunate to have gotten the chance to spend this time with my brother and sister-in-law, something that doesn’t come along often when they’re busy raising a family and working full time.  And naturally, I’m really glad to be able to spend time in this country I’ve fallen for.  She’s a bewitching gal, this Italia.

Thanks for coming along on my jaunt!

 


Ciao Venezia! We head home early tomorrow morning! A grueling journey awaits but it's worth it.

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Venice Day Four/Five Recaps

I wasn't able to post to LiveJournal yesterday because it was full of FAIL and the site seemed to be down.  I'll just bore you with one post covering two days instead of two posts on two days. 

Yesterday morning Debbie and I went to the Accademia Gallery, which is very close to my brother's conference and not far from the apartment.  The museum was pretty fantastic, with hundreds of paintings, mostly of a religious nature.  The place was pretty empty when we went in, but was doing a brisk business by the time we left.  Debbie and I had some interesting philosophical discussions regarding some of the imagery of the paintings, mostly along the lines of, "Why is that pope holding a tray with apples?  Does it represent the trinity?" and "Is that really a woman being shot in the eye with an arrow?"  I'm not even exaggerating about that one.  The history of the the Catholic church is clearly a pretty bloody and grim one, for sure.  And not that it matters, but the museum also had the best bathrooms I've ever seen.

After the museum we went to the Rialto Bridge for some shopping and lunch.  This is where my gelato collapsed like a dying star (see the previous post).  After dropping off our treasures at the apartment, we went over to my brother's conference to hear him give his presentation.  He was supposed to speak at 2:45, and when we arrived they were "wrapping up" the previous session.  This wrap up took 45 minutes.  Finally Brian got up to speak, and his presentation was really good, and after listening to other speakers, it was the only one I could even remotely follow.  The room was filled with some pretty important people in the science community and a number of members of the European Space Agency.  So cool. 

After we left, Debbie decided she was worn out and went back to the apartment for a nap.  I continued on and hopped on a boat that took me to the other side of the city where I visited the Jewish Ghetto.  The history of the Jews in Venice is very interesting and beyond tragic.  The community is clearly separate from the rest of the city, but the narrow streets were very peaceful and charming.  I didn't see a single person for a long time, and when I stepped out into the Campo (basically a piazza), it was booming with life.  There were families everywhere and people chatting while the kids played soccer and ran around screaming.  There was a memorial to the Holocaust along one side of the square but I couldn't go near it because that was apparently the boundary of the soccer field.  I took a few pictures, but I somehow felt like it was disrespectful to linger around the area as a tourist.  I don't know if I can adequately describe it, but it was almost like I was intruding on this intimate community.

I made my way back through the streets to the vaporetto, and it took me nearly 45 minutes just to get back to the stop nearest to the apartment.  I was tired and sore and a little cranky that it was taking so long, and then I realized I was pouting about being incovenienced by a long, slow ride down the Grand Canal of Venice.  What a princess problem, no?

Upon reaching the apartment, we headed out to a nice dinner at one of the cafes lining the piazza near us.  We had been there a couple of days before, and our waiter remembered us.  Great service, great meal.  Afterwards, we went in search of gelato and walked towards Piazza San Marco.  The Piazza is enormous, and the sides are lined with a long gallery of columns and shops and restaurants.  As we stepped into the Piazza, we heard singing, and went in search of the music.  There was a group of 25-30 older Italians singing the most beautiful music I've ever heard.  I don't know who they were, or what they were singing, and many of them had shopping bags, so it was almost like they spontaneously got together to sing.  They sang four or five songs and the accoustics were as perfect as any opera house.  At first we were the only people present, but soon a crowd grew and there was a great round of applause when they finished.  As soon as they were done, they disbanded and wandered off in different directions.  I was profoundly moved and had tears in my eyes almost the whole time.  I recorded video of a couple of songs, and I'll post them on here as soon as I'm able.

Something I've noticed about Italy, and something I love, is how often you hear people singing.  The man who picks up trash on our street every morning sings as he makes his rounds, and you hear construction workers and men on the docks and shop keepers singing all the time.  It's beyond charming.

Today my brother was finally free for the entire day and we had plans to go to Murano island to see the glass factories.  We quickly learned that the vaporetti do not cross the lagoon in the fog, and so we had to find another route while we waiting for it to burn off.  After a couple of hours we were finally able to get to Murano, and the ride across the water was absolutely beautiful.  As boats passed each other, the passengers often waved to each other with big smiles and once we passed a fishing boat with two men on it, and I waved to them and received a cheerful hearty wave in return.  Love that.

Murano was really pretty, and the narrow canals crossing the island make the whole place feel more intimate.  Unfortunately, we spent a couple of hours trying to find any glass factories having tours without any luck.  I suspect it's too early in the tourist season for them to be offered every day.  We did manage to find a workshop that allowed the public to watch them work, and were able to see a number of pieces being made.  It's hard and brutal work, but they make it look effortless.  We had originally intended to continue on to the island of Burano, a small island of fisherman and lace makers, but after hours spent wandering in the sun, we were all pretty tired and headed back to the city.  I retreated to the peace and quiet of the aparment to crash and Brian and Debbie went to a cafe for coffee and then did some shopping.  I've walked many, many miles this week, and while I wish I could just keep going and going, the reality is I always hit the wall at some point and have to take a little time off to recharge my batteries.

When Brian and Debbie got back to the apartment, we decided to go to a restaurant that was highly recommended in our travel guide and isn't far from where we're staying.  Once we found the place, I was a little confused as to why it was teeming with college students, but we decided to trust the guide and carry on.  The food was cheap and tasted okay (although we were unable to figure out what kind of a panini Debbie had ordered), but it wasn't quite what we expected.  As we finished our meal and headed for the door, we noticed the restaurant we had been seeking was actually directly across from where we ended up.  I don't know how we missed it.  The place looked fantastic, with lots of lovely people clearly having good food and a good time.  Tomorrow we're going to head back and give it a try.  Travel is all about little mistakes and improvising and doing exactly the wrong thing sometimes.  Still, it's all part of the adventure.

Okay, if you managed to make it all the way to the end of this post, pat yourself on the back and have a bowl of ice cream.  You've earned it!

Tomorrow is our last full day here, and we head for the airport at an ungodly hour Saturday morning.  I hope all is well where you are.

PS.  I'm not editing this for content or spelling.  WAY TOO TIRED NOW.  Any mistakes should be taken as the errors of an exhausted man.
This photo taken yesterday afternoon at the Rialto Bridge tells you everything you need to know about me.  A scoop of melon and a scoop of coconut gelato. 

What the photo doesn't tell you is that mere seconds after the picture was taken, the entire mass went *plop* on the ground.  Who knew melon gelato had a compromised structural integrity?  Still, what I managed to scarf down was wonderful.  Pure heaven.


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Venice Day Three Recap

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(Sunset over the Grand Canal)
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(Taken about twenty minutes ago as we headed back after dinner)

Tuesday has turned out to be the one of the most beautiful days I've ever had in Italy on any of my trips.  After the rain of the past two days, it was wonderful to see the sunshine and bright blue sky. 

Last night we went to dinner at a restaurant near the apartment, and had a really fun time.  My sister-in-law, who is struggling with Italian pronunciations, asked our waiter "How do you say grazie?"  He deadpanned, "Grazie" and then couldn't hold back the grin.  He could see the three of us were having a lot of fun laughing and talking about our day and after we finished our meal, the manager/owner came over.  He saw our empty plates and said, "You're done?  Why not order another dinner?  There's no reason not to!  It's cold outside, and raining, and you're having fun, and in a couple of hours you can help me close the place up!  You can sweep and clean!  There's no reason to leave!"  He was a really fun guy and utterly charming.  He was also able to place us as Californians, based solely on our accents.  I'm still amazed a non-native english speaker was able to do that.

Today Debbie and I had tickets to the Secret Itinerary Tour of the Doge's Palace.  The tour takes people to all of the places behind the scenes that the normal visitor doesn't get to see.  Our guide was the cutest Italian young woman I've ever seen, and her knowledge of the history of Venice was extensive.  Part of the tour took us through the prison and the cell in which Casanova was held.  The door was very small, and we had to bend down to enter.  Naturally, I nearly had to get on my hands and knees to enter the cell and banged my head when I stood up.  The guide gestured at me and said that Casanova was a tall man, and he was very uncomfortable in the cell because he couldn't stand up all the way.  I was the only person in the group who had to tilt my head the whole time.  I don't think the room was taller than six feet.  I loved listening to our guide talk and when she told the story of Cassanova's daring escape from the prison with a priest who was also locked up, she said "When a servant opened the main door to the palace, Casanova and the priest gave to him a PUSH and made their escape!  It's a very exciting story!"  I just love her phrasing.

After the tour, we wandered around the rest of the Doge's Palace, a fascinating and beautiful building with beautiful rooms and a fascinating collection of weapons from Venice's many wars.  We ended up having lunch at the museum cafeteria, and the food was quite good.

Afterwards, we wandered the waterfront and then hopped on a vaparetto to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, which is directly across the water from St. Mark's Square.  A monastery and church cover most of the island, which is a peaceful and beautiful retreat from the crowds of the main part of the city.  We climbed to the top of the campanile, and were treated to 360 degree views of the entire lagoon, and a perfect vista of the waterfront of the city.  I took 8,000 pictures, and we stood in awe as we watched the tiny boats criss cross the green water as they conducted their mysterious business.  It was an amazing sight that I won't soon forget.

We climbed back on to the next vaporetto and headed back into the city, where I FINALLY found some gelato.  I got the rum and pistachio, both yummy as can be.  We took our time picking our way back to the apartment, doing a little shopping along the way.  My plan was to drop off my purchaces and head back out, but I somehow managed to crash and sleep for a half hour before my snoring woke me up.  Debbie pretty much did the same thing, and once we were able to shake the cobwebs out of our heads, we went back out to wander the city.  This time we crossed over the Accademia Bridge to the south and wandered out to the building on the very edge of the island that used to be the customs house where taxes were paid on incoming goods.  The view was absolutely spectacular, but I'm discovering that there are few views here that aren't. 

We had dinner at a quiet little cafe along the Grand Canal, and watched the sunset over the water.  We just got back to the apartment and I cannot begin to describe to you how sore my legs are.  Every time I approach a flight of stairs, I involuntarily let out a whimper and begin climbing the steps like an elderly man.  It's totally worth it.

I hope all is well where you are.

Venice Day Two Recap

Ciao bellas e bellos,

It's 6:30 in the evening and my sister in law and I just returned to the apartment after a day of walking at least 10 miles (no exaggeration).  We're waiting for my brother to finish with today's conference before we head out to dinner. 

It's been a fascinating day.  It started raining this morning and has kept up pretty much all day.  Right now I'm sitting in wet jeans and socks and I couldn't really care less.  We walked with my brother and some of his colleagues to the Academia for his conference and then continued towards the Grand Canal where there was a grocery store I wanted to go to for bottled water and snacks.  Along the way we stumbled across Venice's last gondola factory (and if it isn't the last one, it's one of the very very few still in existence) and they were just putting out a new gondola into the water.  It was fascinating and beautiful and I just got goosebumps watching it.  It was such an incredible moment.

We continued on to the grocery store, a place I highly recommend visiting when you travel, and shopped along with lots of elderly women and men doing their weekly shopping.  We were clearly the only Americans in the place, and the cashier didn't treat me like an idiot when I got confused with the total of my groceries and helped me pick out the right change to pay for everything. 

After we dropped off our purchases, we headed for the Rialto bridge, a gorgeous and important span across the Grand Canal.  It's lined with shops selling ridiculous tacky items that were also cool and fun and interesting.  The whole area has lots and lots of shops, and we wandered around for a long time.  We finally decided to grab some lunch at a little cafe on the Campo Santa Maria Formosa (literally, the buxom Mary square, no kidding).  The cafe was close to the places we wanted to go to next and was easily identifiable on the map, so we started walking.  And walking.  And walking.  Before we knew it, we were at the northern end of the island, a long way from where we intended to be.  Also, the street we were walking down was covered with dog shit.  Lots and lots and lots of it.  We had to turn around and pick our way back through the land mines and find our way to the main part of the city.

It rained most of the day, and the umbrella I brought from home started having problems early on, but I figured it would hold out long enough to keep me dry for the next day or two.  About two hours ago, I went to open it, and I suddenly had spines or arms or whatever those metal ribs are pointing every direction and the fabric flapping in the breeze.  I managed to keep my head dry with the remains of the umbrella, but my entire back got soaked.  I finally cursed at it for the last time, tossed it in a trash can and spit on the ground *patooie* and bought a new one.

This aftenoon we went to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, a modern art museum created in Peggy's home along the Grand Canal.  It was utterly fascinating and perhaps one of the best museums I've ever seen.  Lots and lots and lots famous artists of the 20th century.  Picasso, Jackson Pollack, Miro, Rothko, Magritte, Man Ray, Dali, Mondrian, Max Ernst, and many more I'd never heard of but whose work I'm familiar with.  There was also an outdoor sculpture garden, but with the pouring rain we didn't linger outside.  I took some amazing pictures with my iphone (seriously, that thing takes the most incredible photos). 

After we left the Guggenheim, we decided to ride the water bus (vaporetti) along the grand canal.  Apparently, the rest of the population of Venice had the same idea and the boats were packed.  I'm surprised we didn't go straight to the bottom of the lagoon.  We quickly realized that if we stayed on the boat, we would end up at the end of the line, miles from the apartment, so we hopped off at the next stop and promptly got lost.  With no landmarks, it's easy to get turned around and disoriented and you are soon at the mercy of tired-looking women standing outside of restaurants on their smoke break who will wave in a general direction with a cigarette when you ask for help.

I'm having a wonderful time, even with wet pant legs, umbrella fails, sore feet and dog poop promenades.

To bed I go!  I hope all is well with you. 

Day 2, Post Script

This the view I have FROM MY BED!

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Venice Day 2

Shots from this morning's jaunt.

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