Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Family Blogging Quiz

Okay, here's the next mystery photo, and it represents a potentially rich vein for future contests-- baby pics! Does anyone know who this is?

Leave your answers in the comments-- prize is an autographed copy of this photo:

Happy guessing!

Friday Family Blogging

As many of you know, I'm out in the great Northwest for Thanksgiving. Here are a couple of recent pictures (yesterday) especially for those of you back east who may have forgotten what your cousins/neices/nephews/grandkids look like out here:

Here are Thomas, Joseph, Sara & Maria at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma. They fit right in with the wildlife!

And here's one of Marenka and Gerik in their natural habitat, under blankets, playing games!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Italy Trip 20

[Thanks to Lil sis for letting me spend some time on her new computer to get these last few messages posted-- this blogging business can be addictive and I was suffering from withdrawal these past few days!]

The park surrounding the Villa de Borghese was incredible, especially on such an unexpectedly nice day. It reminded me of Retiro Park in Madrid, or Central Park in New York-- very busy with people engaged in all kinds of outdoor activities and just enjoying the nice weather. Here's a picture of a fountain outside the Modern Art Gallery:

Nearby was a nice little boat lake, with lots of folks out in their rented craft:

Here's just a nice shot of the park, looking towards the lake, but from another angle:

Walking around the lake a little further, I spotted this little columned building peeking out on the other side:

After dragging myself away from the lake (it was a very nice spot to sit and rest my weary feet-- everywhere I went this day was on foot), I spent a little time watching some kids play soccer near this spot, the Piazza de Sienna:

You can tell that the daylight was growing short from the long shadows. I'll have some more pictures of the park, and from my last evening in Italy soon.

Italy Trip 19

After leaving the concert at the Piazza della Popolo, I walked over to the Tiber River to see what it looked like in that part of the city. The day before, when we crossed it near the Vatican, I felt bad that my camera was not working, since there were some really nice potential pictures, especially at twilight. The view at this point was less stunning, but still pretty. Here's the view looking north:

And here is the view looking south:

I sat and rested in a small park on the other side of the river and read the International Herald Tribune. It was a very nice day (as you can probably tell from teh pictures) about 65 degrees and sunny-- much better than I had expected for November. After finishing the paper, I headed back over the river looking for someplace to have lunch. I found a nice outdoor cafe on the far side of the Piazza della Popolo. Here's a view of the arch leading into the Piazza from my seat on the sidewalk:

I had a really nice meal (some bruschetta for an appetizer, and a Porcini Mushroom pizza), and sat and watched the world go by. Up the block was the entrance to the Borghese Villa park (which is where I was heading next):

I was going to the park because, inside is the National Gallery of Modern Art, and I wanted to check out the futurists. When I was in Rome 8 years ago, I went to the gallery on my last evening in Italy, arrived when there was only about an hour before the museum closed, and then discovered that the galleries where the futurists were housed were closed for renovation. So I was really looking forward to seeing what I missed the last time. Here's the facade of the museum:

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I could not take pictures inside the museum. But I finally got to some great work by Balla, Boccioni, Severini, and others. Actually, probably my favorite pieces were not those by the futurists I waited so long to see, but instead the work of a couple of other artists that I was previously unfamiliar with (more on them later). They also head a large collection of Marcel DuChamp's ready-mades, which are even funnier in person that in text-books. After leaving the museum, I spent an hour or so wondering about the park, which was a highlight in itsself-- pictures in the next post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm in Lake Tapps looking forward to a fine Thanksgiving feast with Lil Sis, Richard, Marenka & Gerik (Lil Sis says hi to everybody). I hope everyone reading this is having (or has had) as nice a holiday as I have. I should have more Italy pictures up in just a little bit. But in the meantime, I just want to say how thankful I am for all my wonderful family and friends, and I'm looking forward to spending time with all of them over the next couple of months, through the holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Italy Trip 18

while walking from the Spanish Steps to the Piazza del popolo, I passed by a small patio on which there were two statues. Here's the first (I do not know if it is an ancient relic, or only looks like one):

And here's the other (definitely not an ancient relic):

These two were literally about six feet apart from one another. Does anyone want to guess what they might possibly have in common? Or is it just a weird coincidence that they were in such close proximity to one another?

Anyway, you might recall the short video I posted of the concert I stumbled onto in the Piazza del Popolo. Here's a picture of the stage from the opposite side from where I shot the video:

And here's a closer look at the statues behind the stage, which certainly added to the setting considerably:

Here are the two matching churches on the south side of the Piazza:

p.s. I won't be posting for the next couple of days, as I travel to Washington for Thanksgiving. Maybe while I'm there Lil Sis will let me use her computer to post, and I'll be sure to include some up-to-date pics of the west coast branch of the family. But don't worry, there's more from the Italy trip to come...

Italy Trip 17

Next stop on my little foray around the Eternal City was the Spanish Steps (or Piazza di Spagna). I don't really know the historical significance of this place, but there is a statue of Columbus nearby (though he was Italian, but sailing for the Spanish). Anyway, it's another clearly popular spot for the tourists as you can tell from the crowd:

At the bottom of the steps is a fountain, pictured here, where I sat down to rest my already very tired feet (this was still in the morning, after already visiting the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Traiano Forum of earlier posts):

You can see my weary, but satisfied expression in this shot:

Here's a view from the top of the steps, looking back down into the Piazza where the fountain is (though you can't really see it from this angle):

At the top of the steps is a big church, and outside are vendors, mostly dealing in artworks. There's a lot of foot traffic from the tourists, so I'm guessing these guys make a pretty decent living:

After climbing back down the steps, I rested and plotted my next move. This is the direction I was headed, north toward the Piazza del Popolo:

More next time-- I've still got more than half a day to share of the trip.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Italy Trip 16

Here's a whole set of images of the Fontana di Trevi, one of the most famous landmarks in Rome. It's located in a very small plaza, that was crowded with tourists. All of the roads and alleys leading into the square are filled with vendors. The legend says that if you throw a coin into the fountain, some day you will return to Roma. This shot gives you an idea of the statuary at the rear of the fountain:

Here's a broader view, giving you some idea of how crowded the area was (sorry about the shadows):

Here's a view of the front of the fountain. Some locals had little nets that they were surreptitiously using to fish out coins (though you don't see that here). There were cops around trying to make sure no one filched the riches in the water.

Here's a close-up of one of the statues:

And another shot from the back side of the fountain:

This was really quite impressive to see in person, and I guess I'm not alone in that sentiment, given the throngs pressed into a relatively small area. Given the size of the fountain itself, it seems a little odd that it occupies such a tight little corner of the city, especially since there are so many massive piazzas everywhere else. I wonder how this one ended up in such close quarters (if the square was built up around it, or maybe the builders tried to squirrel it away in an out-of the-way place?).

Italy Trip 15

I'm on the last day of my visit to Italia, but it was so jam-packed, I think it may take a few more posts to get through everything. This sequence covers less than an hour. After leaving the section of the city designated as the old Roman Forum, where the bulk of the ruins and ongoing excavations are occurring, I decided to head over to the Pantheon. Along the way, I got this shot of the front of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel (we say the statues at the top in an earlier picture taken in the forum):

A couple of blocks away, I came across this ruin, which is called the Area Sacra Argentina. It occupies a block in the middle of an otherwise fairly modern neighborhood:

Here is the Piazza della Rotunda, with the Pantheon in the background. This is a very well-preserved ancient Roman temple that was long ago converted to a Catholic church. I gather that it is among the best preserved examples of Roman architecture from the imperial period:

The morning I was there, there was a large contingent of priests hovering around the entrance, all decked out in fancy robes, apparently preparing for some kind of ceremony:

Here's a picture of the Pantheon's dome from the inside:

Unfortunately, the other pictures I took inside came out too dark, and before I could make adjustments on the camera to fix the problem, I and all the other visitors got hustled out. I guess whatever the priests were gathering for wass about to start. I thought about hanging around to check it out, but there was more I wanted to see, and time was short.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Historical/Political Comment

With all the discussion of the now-likely prospect of President-elect Obama naming Hillary Clinton to serve as his Secretary of State, I started to wonder about how likely it might be for her to return to the Senate later, following her service in the executive branch. First of all, I should mention that I don't see any significant down-side to Obama naming Clinton to his cabinet, in practical terms (as opposed to the rhetorical hay likely to be made by their opponents, especially among the right-wing pundits). But I have to wonder if that is such a great career move for Mrs. Clinton. I would think she'd have a better (and longer) opportunity to secure her own legacy as a leader in the Senate, moreso than by serving in the cabinet (which, by the way, does not appear to be much of a stepping stone to the presidency, if history is any guide-- I think William Howard Taft is the last to make that particular transition). Back in the nineteenth century, it was easier to move back and forth between the two branches-- men like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun all did so quite regularly over the course of their respective careers (though again-- none of them became president, although Clay for one very badly wanted the job). But back then, the state legislatures selected senators, not a popular vote, and so party insiders (and each of those three was definitely that) had a huge advantage to fill any vacancies. Today, the road back to the Senate would be noticeably more competitive. Of course, history is never a perfect predictor, and maybe the heightened international profile for Clinton will secure her nomination as the next Democratic presidential candidate after Obama. But if that doesn't happen, I wonder just where the next step will take her, especially if, for whatever reason, she does not end up staying in the cabinet for the duration of Obama's presidency (which again, by historical standards is the likely scenario). It seems a calculated risk on her part, especially if she still harbors ambitions to return to the White House.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Friday Family Blogging

These photos come courtesy of Theresa, and allow us to update our file on Emma, who starred in a few posts last month, but in pictures that were already out-of-date. Here's a much more recent photo (what a cutie, huh?):

And here are her older sibs, Helen & Nicky-- I had no idea Nicky was so ripped! And what posture! I think Helen is casting a spell... and... I...cannot...resist...

I can't wait to see the kids in person at Christmastime!

Friday Family Blogging

This one comes courtesy of Lil Sis, and is another photo-quiz. This is a artistically retouched picture of some member of the family-- do you know who? As always, put your answers into the comments, and I'll come up with some kind of prize for the first right answer (Lil Sis is, of course, ineligible)-- I think I have some Italian chocolate left, if that sounds enticing.

Italy Trip 14

Okay, here's the first set of pictures from my last day in Italy. It was a totally free day to do what we pleased, and I looged several miles on foot checking out everyhting I could squeeze in that I had missed not only the previous day, but also eight years earlier when I was here last. The first picture is actually taken from the bus on our way into the city. Our hotel was actually about ten miles outside Rome in a resort area called Vellitri. It was a nice hotel, way up in the hills, and on the ride down we went past this lake. On the far side, at the top of the ridge to the left, you can see a castle which at one time was the summer residence of the popes. I'm not sure, but maybe it still is. Anyway, it was a nice scenic view (even through the window of the bus):

Coming into the city, we passed a number of isolated ancient temples and columns and other ruins. The coolest to me was the remnant of the old aqueduct which supplied the city with water. It's not quite as neat as the one I saw in Segovia Spain 20 years ago, but pretty impressive nonetheless:

We were dropped off in the area near the Coliseum, I headed over to check out the Foro di Traiano, which was originally created by Julius Caesar. The building in this photo was the market, which housed dozens of merchants:

The bridge leading to the market is the last remaining one in Rome built during ancient times (if I remember what the guide had told us when we drove by in the bus):

Here are the remains of the Foro di Traiano, which I believe pre-date those of the Foro Romano that I posted the other day. The church in the background is newer, of course, but the columns indicate where the main square was when Julius Caesar was emperor:

From here I headed over to the Pantheon, and I'll post some pictures of that in the next installment on the Italy trip.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Culinary Comment (Italy Edition)

As I alluded to in a previous message, the food we enjoyed in Italy was uniformly excellent (with one exception). The highlight was the lunch I had our first day in Rome, at a small outdoor cafe just across the street from the Tiber River, a few blocks away from the Vatican. What I had is what you see pictured above (not the actual pizza I ate, since my camera was on the fritz at the time, but a reasonable facsimile I found on the web). This is known as a Bismarck Pizza, and as you can see, the highlight is a nice sunny-side-up egg baked into the middle of the pie. It also has ham, and of course cheese and tomato sauce. It was scrumptious. The next day for lunch, I was tempted to order it again (at a different place), but figuring that being adventurous paid off once, I might as well try something new. The Porcini pie (with big chunks of mushrooms) I had was pretty good, but it was no Bismarck. I wonder if I'll have the chance to enjoy this delight again if I don't ever get back to Italy? That might be reason enough for a return trip.

Posting Note

Because the posts on my Italy trip tend to be fairly long, with all the photos and such, they eventually squeeze out older posts on the page. It's reached the point now where even the first couple of Itlay posts no longer appear on this page when you arrive at this site. However, please be aware that older posts are automatically archived, and can be retrieved by scrolling down to the Blog Archive heading in the left margin. All of this month's posts appear by title-- just click and read. Post titles from previous months are hidden, but accessible by clicking on the name of the month. So if you missed something, it's still there for your viewing pleasure.

Italy Trip 13

After passing through the old Roman Forum, we came up adjacent to the Campidoglio e Musei Capitolini, and outside there was a statue (a copy of a a very famous larger model that I gather was destroyed) showing Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, being given sustenance by a she-wolf (you can read more of their story here).

Here's a shot looking up the steps at the Musei (which I did not go into, though some of the students did and they told me there was a very good Picasso exhibit):

From there, we reboarded the bus and drove across the Tiber River to the Vatican. Here's a shot of the river (taken through the bus window, so maybe a little fuzzy). The building on the left is the Castel of San Angelo, which I believe at one time was the residence of the Pope (or maybe it was somewhere they sought refuge when the city was under attack):

It was raining by the time we got to the Piazza del San Pietro (St. Peter's Square). We had the one less-than-satisfying meal at a restaurant along the Via della Conciliazione, which is the street that leads into the square. Not only was the food not too impressive, but it was incredibly overpriced, which we didn't realize until we hit the checkout counter, since there were no pirices on the items as we went through (it was a cafeteria set-up). Considering that that was really the only thing I can think of to complain about in relation to the trip (I don't count my aching feet from all the walking-- that was to be expected), gives you some indication of how great it was in general. Anyway, here's a nice shot of the square:

After lunch, we walked around for a guided tour of the museum. On our way we passed this gate, which was an entryway into the Vatican:

Shortly after we arrived at the Vatican, my camera conked out on me, so I have no more pictures from that day. I was worried that it had shorted and I had fried my memory card (which had photos going back to Florence on it). But after playing around with it that evening, it came back to life and everything was okay. The next post will have pictures from the following day, when I wandered all over the city.