Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring in D.C.

Washington, DC sure does Spring prettier than North Dakota does Spring!

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Monday, March 19, 2012

A Toast to the Ex-Prez & St. Patti

After the most wonderful speech by President Clinton, my friend Ute, and I, and toast the Ex-Prez and St. Patti's Day.

During Clinton's speech, he said that now that he's gotten "old and decrepit" he's learned that "Big beats little, tomorrow beats yesterday and renewal beats resentment."

He also said that 2012 needs to be a "thinking election" without the ideological focus of 2010, with everyone calling each other names.

Wouldn't that be nice? I toast my green beer to that concept!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Zojirushi Rice Cooker

If it takes you awhile to make a decision about a rice cooker purchase, like 4 or 5 years, debate no more! This is THE ONE! Around Christmas time, after reading countless reviews on Amazon to figure out which rice cooker I wanted to buy when my worthless, but inexpensive, little 20 year old burn-50%-of-all rice-and-stick-to-the-pan rice cooker gave me one fit too many. I bought the five cup version which is just fine for Doug and I, but if you have a large family or cook for the masses, you might want to consider a larger version.
So just for rice, you might ask? And my answer would be no.  "No", coupled with pointing you toward this book as well, and then, when you're done experimenting with the most perfect steel cut oatmeal ever (timed to be ready for you in the morning, with the sweet aroma of cinnamon, slivered almonds or maybe pumpkin spice), you can venture into things like lentil-rice salads with feta and black olives.

Don't you feel healthier just reading this?  So save your pennies (or dollars) for this one, and if you can force yourself to spend some of your money or this rather than photographic equipment (I know, I know, I hear the groans), think of how you'll live longer to take more shots! (Because you'll be eating more whole grains and veggies and fewer slabs of bloody meat.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thank You, President Clinton!

Fifteen years ago, the little city of Grand Forks, ND, was overwhelmed by a massive flood, and then, as the city evacuated, saw its downtown devastated further by raging fire. My family first fled west, and then we made our way south to stay with my brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Barb, in Texas. While we were gone, then President Bill Clinton came to our town and promised aid and support. It was a very different world back then, with the belief that the role of government is to help people when they cannot help themselves, and that it is in the country's best interest to do so. We were not the victims of Katrina; we got the help we needed to build a thriving community.

Today, Bill Clinton came back to Grand Forks and toured the town, to see the outcome of his efforts, and to endorse the nomination of our hopefully future senator, Heidi Heitcamp.

I don't know if any of you have had the opportunity to hear Bill Clinton speak recently, but he continues to be as articulate and brilliant as ever!

I'm sure you can tell that I count myself as one of his fans. I'm especially impressed by his humanitarian efforts around the world, efforts to combat Aids, and efforts to mitigate violence against women. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, go!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yoga-Dog Does Downward Dog

Each dog has it's own unique skills. Some fetch. Some roll over. Some review books. I do yoga. I am Yoga-Dog!

And I like sitting on people who try to do yoga.

Or licking their faces.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From the Big Apple to Minnie-Apple-is

We got to see Dianna in Febrary, while she had more wisdom teeth pulled. (And this should be the end of her wisdom teeth, unless she grows more!)

Just for fun, we bought her some Easter egg supplies. (One of her roommates got these beautiful flowers.)

Self-portrait, so you'll know I exist.

Dianna lives on the third floor of her apartment. Doesn't this look nightmarish, when you realize she'll move again in August? And has a queen - sized bed. (I'm hiding!)

Just one of the wonderful Minneapolis restaurants.  Doug and I slipped away for breakfast, in between preparing much less interesting wisdom-teeth-type food for Dianna.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New York City Public Library and One Last Travel Snafu

At hour 44 of my 45 hours in New York City, I made a quick dash to the New York City Public Library. Even with google maps, however, I managed to go in the wrong building first, and have to go through a security clearance/bag screening. It was frustrating because now I was counting my minutes. In the wrong building, which was still part of the library system, I made it up to the second floor and asked about the reading rooms. The very helpful librarian pointed me in the right direction, but because the escalator only went up and not down, I took the elevator.

 I'm telling you all this because I thought it was really funny when I got in the elevator and this little old lady looked at me as the door closed and said, "Thank God you're normal!" (Ha! What does she know that all of you don't know at this point?) Apparently, she'd had an unpleasant ride up earlier with a man who felt the need to push all the buttons and talk to himself. But look at these beautiful statues! No wonder Brian sent me here!

The library is actually on the edge of Bryant Park, so I was backtracking a bit this morning, from the Shake Shack, to B&H, and then back toward the library.

The library has two reading rooms, at the top of the stairs.  One room allows photography and headphones, the other does not.  I figured it all out in my very own little head that the one that does not allow photography is probably because it's the super-duper quiet reading room and the shutter click or noise from headphones would bother some people.

I wisely chose to do my photographing in the non-super-duper quiet reading room.

After this, I raced back to my hotel to get my luggage, grabbed a cup of soup on the way, and was ready to settle down with a book for a few minutes when Dianna called saying she had a problem, and then her phone went dead.

Why do phones always die at those moments?

It turns out that she was already at the airport and had lost her driver's license. I caught a cab to get there to help her out, and started googling options.  Apparently, it's not really a federal regulation that you have to have photo id to get on the airplane; it's the prerogative of the airlines whether they'll issue a boarding pass. And if you're as convincing as the sweet Dianna is, you'll be allowed to board.

What amazed me was that about two weeks after I got home from New York, Dianna's license showed up in the mail. I was very impressed that someone in New York took the time to do this, and that it managed to get to us, with South Dakota listed as the state, and the wrong zip code.  But somehow, it arrived anyway.

Which I find to be as amazing as the phone call I got two days ago from a very kind woman in Washington DC who'd found my son's license!  A jogger picked up his license and couldn't reach Scott, but googled and found us. Scott had been mugged that morning by someone with a knife and lost his phone and wallet. Fortunately, he was only mildly cut on the hand, but I'm so relieved that it wasn't an injury worse than this!

* *  ** * * * * * * * ** *
So there you have it:  my 45 hours in New York City. And if you want to follow in my footsteps (sans odor eaters), here's the path: 1st evening: Bryant Park, Grand Central Station, FAO Schwartz, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, walk past Radio City to Time's Square and stop at Starbucks for a break; Empire State Building, eat a hot dog and go to sleep.

2nd day:  McDonald's (it's fast), take the subway and walk past the Brooklyn Bridge on the way to  the 9/11 Memorial, walk to Wall Street, pass Battery Park and take the Ferry to and from Staten Island, take the subway again and head to an Italian restaurant, walk past The World's Smallest Store and head to Time's Square for same-day Broadway tickets, walk through Little Italy, eat cannoli, stop in a strange store with a skeleton in front, rest for about 1/2 an hour at the hotel, head to the Broadway play, back to the hotel after stopping off at McDonalds again (how lame, but fast).

Last day:  Shake Shack, B & H PHOTO SUPERSTORE!!!!!, New York Public Library, and back to Grand Forks.  If you follow in my footsteps, feel free to come all the way to Grand Forks and say "hi" to me!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Except for Seeing Brian, The Most Favorite Part of the 45 Hours in New York City

Remember how I said that it was in the last hours of the 45 hours in New York that I got to do the most fantastic thing of all, the thing that has contributed greatly to our scheduling another trip to New York City? Well, it turns out that a mere 4 blocks or so from our hotel (oh, be still, my beating heart!) was the B&H Photo New York City Superstore! (Wait! That needs more exlamation points!! Here they are: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

After Brian went to work, I headed out to the store to see what it was like. It was phenomenal! It was so exciting that I forgot to take a photo of the exterior of the store. . . or even the interior, and their employees are so darn nice that I think they would have been fine with my photographing in the store. The store is several floors of every conceivable piece of photographic equipment, and there are workers every 5 feet to help you with your questions--employees who actually seem to know what they are talking about, give advice, and make suggestions, without any kind of "sell" thrown in.

 Because I had been trudging all through the city, carrying my camera and several lenses, trying to keep the bag from falling off my shoulders, I really wanted to look at their travel backpacks.

They had rows and rows of backpacks.

And when a salesperson asked me if I needed any assistance, I asked for advice.  As it turns out, my Lowepro backpack is a miserable experience for a reason:  it's really meant for guys. (Doug has now inherited it from me.)

She showed me this Tamrac and sat on the floor with me, checking to see if all of my equipment would fit nicely in the backpack.  Then she demonstrated how to use it.

The backpack has several different ways to access the contents. The outer pocket is perfect for storing my Nook tablet.

The pocket that is on my left, while wearing the backpack, allows ready access to the camera.  The salesperson showed me how you undo the front strap across your front, just below your collarbone, slip your arm out of the right strap, and let the bag fall easily forward on your left side to make it easy to grab your camera. The bag is still secured on your left shoulder.

For quick access instead to the lenses, you would use the same process of undoing the front strap, and slip out of the left shouder strap, allowing the bag to fall forward on your right side, while still secure on your right shoulder.

When not wearing the bag, you can access all of the contents through the large front zipper.  The blue nylon looking thing on the left in one of the pockets is a rain "jacket" for the camera bag.

The salesperson gave me a slip to take to check out to pull up the bag for me.  I went up to the counter to talk to another clerk about lenses and battery grips.  This salesperson asked me about my model of camera, and then pulled out a Nikon D300s so that I could test out battery grips on the same camera that I have. He showed me the Zeikos battery grip, and the Nikon battery grip, explained the differences (basically none except price) and showed me how to attach it to a camera.

Then I asked whether it would work on my camera with my Really Right Stuff quick release plate, and he said sure, but checked it out on my own camera.  But he also noticed that I had my quick release plate on backwards and fixed it! And he showed me how to set the menu settings in my camera to enable the order of accessing the battery I would prefer (first in camera grip, then in camera body.)

It was a whole personalized photography lesson in the store for me!  It was my "dream" hour!

By the way, I'm surprised by how much I'm liking both of these purchases, and how much easier it was to make the purchases "live" rather than obsessing for hours on the internet trying to figure it out. And I don't know that I ever would have figured out that my "perfectly good" Lowepro backpack was definitely a mistake for me and that I should just cut my losses, or that the quick release tripod plate was on backwards on my camera.

I gotta go back!

Next up, the final hour in New York City, and the fear that Dianna would never be allowed to leave! (What's a trip without that final boost of traveling adrenalin?)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last Hours in New York City

And now, I was closing in on my last hours in New York City: Monday morning, Brian was about to head off to work; Dianna had gone off to her interview. I had a few hours to wander about the city on my own, before heading to the airport and back to the land of the bland.

Brian is such a sweet guy.  He knows how easily I get lost, so he had me walk with him toward his work place, in part so he could point out the specific directions for me to walk to get to the places I wanted to check out before going to the airport.

And of course, we needed food!  So we went to this little park on his way to work, Bryant Park, which has a dog park, benches, and good food:   

The Shake Shack even had items on the menu for our 4-legged friends:

And fantastic burgers and shakes for the two-legged types:

It's a very pleasant park, in the middle of midtown New York City.  I'll always remember it as a very serene moment, sitting on a park bench, looking around at the sky, the dog-walkers, the hint of spring, the buildings. . .
This is the "FlatIron building", considers NYC's first skyscrapers. I found this bit of trivia about the building on the web: " The building's cultural legacy is a little more interesting and has passed into the local social consciousness as a fable. It is said that the building created unusual eddies in the wind which would cause women's skirts to fly around as they walked on 23rd street. This attracted throngs of young men who gathered to view the barelegged spectacle. Police would try to disperse these knots of heavy-breathers by calling to them, "23 Skidoo." This phrase has passed out of common usage, but its descendant, the word "scram" remains in a back corner of the American lexicon."
Huh! Heavy-breathers. . .

And another shot of the Empire State Building. . .

By the way, there was a comment after a post the other day, in response to the picture of the "World's Smallest Store" and free advice.  Go back and take a peek at it.  I thought what anyone in my shoes would have thought, and sent my brother Robert a txt message asking him if he was messing with me.

He ignored me.

So I googled "The World's Smallest Store" and Parker is in fact the owner of the store! Here's an interesting news story about Parker and the store:   I'm very impressed with the contributions to plant trees.

So it looks like the offer of free advice is genuine! Think of the possibilities! I'm going to start accumulating my operating my Nikon SB800 flash questions now!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another Favorite Thing I Did in New York City

Hour 24 1/2 in New York City:

This is something that I had never done before, a Broadway play! I did go to New York City once before, nearly 40 years ago, as a college student, with several friends. We saw very little; I mainly remember seeing the Statute of Liberty from the ferry, and then just staying with the friends at their parents' houses, two of us arguing with the other two because they did not want to leave New York; two of us went back to Illinois without the two who refused to leave. The two of us who left were total idiots of the 70s; we picked up two hitch-hikers along the way to share the driving, and lived to tell about it! Definitely not something I would recommend these days. And we couldn't even talk to them because they only spoke french!

 But no hitchhikers this time, just this wonderful chance to see "Chicago!" Dianna and I went, while Brian went off to watch the Super Bowl with friends. What a treat! I'd do it again in a heartbeat! There's something very magical about a Broadway play with the intimacy of its small theater and impressive professionalism.

After the play, I headed back to the hotel, and Dianna went off to another Super Bowl party. Strangely, she'd met a friend in the subway that she knew from Minneapolis and set off to see them. Not gifted with the boundless energy of the 20-some, I chose to zone out in the hotel,with one detour to the not-particularly exciting nearby McDonalds.

By hour 29 in New York, I could hear strangely joyful screaming out my hotel window, down in the streets below. The Giants had won the Super Bowl, and New Yorkers were celebrating. Brian came back from his party, discovered Dianna wasn't back yet, and heading out to Time's Square because of reports of jubilation and merriment there.

Not me; I was content at that hour of the night to hang out in the hotel and be amused by the news reports.

Friday, March 2, 2012

New York Shopping Experiences

It wasn't long, after eating lunch, that we started to feel ready to sample some of the pleasures of Little Italy. But what's wrong with these children of mine? See the backs of Brian and Dianna? On the left of the photo? PASSING By a store boasting #1 Homemade Italian Ice Cream! Clearly, something went awry in the gene pool.
But they redeemed themselves by wisely stopping at this Italian bakery . . .
. . . where we sampled some wonderful cannoli and biscotti (I like mine better!)
Just in case you want some Italian vanity plates. . .
Certainly, no one could pass up a little shop with a skeleton in front.
Just what I wanted: a pleasant little reminder of guts and "colonoscopy."
And now that I look back on this photo, I just can't help but wonder why I didn't start my Christmas shopping early.
  And here's another treasure I didn't purchase. What was I thinking?

And this brings me up to hour 20 1/2 of my 45 hours in New York City!