Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wine Tasting

A great day with the Osgood's (of K Syrah Syrah Vineyards) and the Boyd's (of Boyd Family Winery). We visited Elyse Winery and Darioush Winery. Elyse was a smaller production winery with a specialty for Rhone grape varietals. Everything we tried was outstanding. We especially enjoyed the Rhone varietal blends. Darioush has an amazing (albeit over the top) property, which sent up warning flags to us; but their wine is delicious - unfortunately a tad overpriced. We had a barrel tasting there which was extra special.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Facebook Like and Advertising Collisions

I thought I'd post this problem to the Internet to see what response, if any, I would get. I've spent hours "chasing ghosts" with it, and have not been able to identify a good set of repeatable steps to recreate the problem (thus, it is difficult to pin-point and fix). I'm hoping that keyword searches will bring people who might be searching for information on this problem to this post. Please comment or email me directly if you have any insight on this issue.

The Problem
Facebook Like buttons swap and/or interfere with Google Adsense Ads and other advertising (ie: Halogen). The problem is intermittent and difficult to reproduce, but it seems to happen more often than not when the button on a browser is used. This could be navigating to an external site and clicking to return or navigating from within the site. It is not browser specific and has been seen in Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.6, Safari, and Chrome.

The Screenshots
This is what a normal webpage looks like. Notice there is a banner ad on top, a Facebook Like button/link under the blog title, and some advertising in the right margin.



This is what one of the problem pages looks like. It is the s
ame page as above, but the Facebook Like button/link has replaced the banner ad, Google Ads has replaced the Facebook Like button (thus causing the Twitter button to wrap), and the right margin advertising is not rendering.



Here is another rendition of the problem. The Facebook Like button/link has been replaced with a banner ad that is far too large for the space; thus pushing the Facebook Like too far to the right, the Twitter button has been pushed to the right margin, and right margin advertising is not rendering.


By all estimates, not very many regular users experience this problem. Nevertheless, it exists and it is a problem I would like to pin-point and eliminate.

Have you seen or experienced this before on your website, and do you know what might be causing it?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Commute

My recent new job has meant a new commute to get used to. It is one, however, that is far more difficult than I could have ever anticipated. My new job is in the Potrero Hill district of San Francisco, and I have to get there from the Sunset district. Sounds easy enough as it is across town and only 4.5 miles away, right? Wrong.


I have tried to use MUNI to get to work, but it is unreliable and very unpleasant. On average it takes 1.5hrs to go this distance using MUNI, and can sometimes take as long as 2hrs! That is unacceptable for a city to city trip in my opinion. People who I work with are arriving to work in less time from San Jose using Caltrain! I have tried to take the 71 or 71L to the 22 Fillmore, the N-Judah to the 22 Filmore, and my least favorite - the N-Judah to the 19 Polk. The 19 Polk may as well be called the 19 Skidrow as it is the most...colorful...bus ride in the city, filthy, and consistently smells like weed and booze at all hours.

To further complicate things, MUNI has started requiring the use of Clipper Cards to pay for transit. In a strange twist of backward technology, it takes 3 days for money deposited to the Clipper Card online to be usable on the card! So if I decide right now that I want to re-up my Clipper Card so I can go out and use it, MUNI will take my money immediately but I will not be able to use those funds for 3 days. Waiting 3 days is absurd. The bank doesn't even take that long to cash an out of state check! This must be fixed.

With all the business flourishing in Potrero Hill, you'd expect there to be more reliable public transportation to and from the neighborhood. For as long as I've been in San Francisco, Potrero Hill has been "up & coming". I believe it will remain stuck in this status (for better or for worse) for as long as the public transportation is insufficient.

It is so sad to me that there is a public transit system in this city that I cannot use. This dilemma has unfortunately forced me to ride either my motorcycle or my car to work everyday, while the trend is to use public transportation when you can. Some people have suggested I take a bicycle, but the city streets are far too dangerous in my opinion for a bike.

So much for being green.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

5th Annual Pumpkin Party and trick-or-treating on Belvedere Street

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

RIP Gregory Isaacs

One of my favorite reggae artists has passed away. He was described in the New York Times as "the most exquisite vocalist in reggae", and that could not be further from the truth. Known as the "cool ruler", he was a smooth operator both on stage and in recording. In his honor, Phish covered his famous song "Night Nurse" at a show they played the night after his passing.



1951-2010

Throwing Stones



Lauren & Lulu
Tennessee Valley, CA
10.16.10

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Trey Speaks

Trey Anastasio of Phish shares a little on his emotional connection to music as part of the film, Music by Andrew Zuckerman.



His words have a much broader application than to just music.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phish in Broomfield,CO

An early bday present for me was to see Phish for 3 amazing nights in Broomfield, CO with a few of my good friends.










Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vampire Weekend

Never opposed to a Springsteen cover...




From 9/25/10 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Natural Gas

The recent gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno has brought much attention to the dangers of using natural gas as fuel in our homes. While the San Bruno disaster has raised concerns over the safety of our aging natural gas pipelines, a more likely disaster scenario for all of us in Northern California is an earthquake that causes a natural gas leak in our home.

The recent disaster in San Bruno is not the first time the San Francisco Bay Area has experienced fires fueled by natural gas. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, it was estimated that 90% of the damage was caused by fires fueled by natural gas after the quake. More recently, the Marina District in San Francisco burned from natural gas fires after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The Mission District burns in 1906


The Marina District burns in 1989

One important thing you can do is to know how to turn off the gas in your home in case of an earthquake or other emergency. Granted, this would not have helped San Bruno victims because the fire was at the pipeline...but a scenario you might have to deal with is one where a gas line in your home has been ruptured because of an earthquake. You can prepare yourself in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Locate the point at which the gas line enters your home.
You should be able to locate this in the garage or ground level of your home. If you live in a rented home or an apartment building, ask your landlord where it is. Additionally, PG&E offers free furnace inspections. Have them come out to your home for an annual inspection and ask them to point it out to you.
Step 2: Know how to turn the gas ON and OFF.
Each set up may be different but in general, the valve will be perpendicular with the direction of the line when the gas is OFF, and horizontal with the line when the gas is ON. See pictures below for my particular set up:
Horizontal to the pipeline direction

Perpendicular to the pipeline direction

Step 3: Make sure a gas valve wrench is located near the gas valve.
A gas valve wrench is an inexpensive item available at most hardware stores. Gas valves have fairly standard sizes so it is likely that the wrench you buy will fit your valve. To be sure, test fitting your wrench over the valve and ensure you are able to turn the valve (although be careful to not turn off the gas unnecessarily as you might extinguish pilot lights).

Additionally, keep the gas valve wrench close to the gas valve where you can always find it; as the time you'll need to use it will be in an emergency. I have mine hung on a nail near the valve, but also have it secured with an easy-to-untie rope in case an earthquake knocks it off the nail.


For more information about utilities during an emergency, check out the City of San Francisco's
"utilities" page on 72hours.org.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nickie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Your Hotmail is H@cK3d

There seems to be an epidemic going on. I'm getting spam email from friends linking me to websites on v1agra, s3x enhancements, and all sorts of other spam worthy products. In the past week or two, I have seen 3 Hotmail accounts from friends get hacked. The final straw was one night when I was at my desk - Julia was in bed and I got a mass spam email from her Hotmail account (freshly hacked)!

This is not the first time I have seen Hotmail accounts get compromised so someone can send out link spam to the entire address book. Is the problem the security of the Hotmail account itself, or is it the lack of security precautions taken by Hotmail users?

I have never liked Hotmail as an email service, as I have known it to be unreliable at times and very easy to compromise. Take, for example, the "forgot password" security questions they offer in case you forget your password. They tend to be very simple questions like "What was the name of your first pet?". So even though you have a very beefy secure password of "hWbkj5@g", it is easy for someone to figure out that "Rover" is the answer to your security question - and thus gain access to your account through the backdoor (so to speak).

Someone who knows you well but has malicious intent may easily be able to figure out your first pet's name, and thus gain access to your account - even though your password is uber secure! Another possibility is that a hacker with intent to send out link spam to your entire address book can easily program a script that will try thousands of possible pet names, quite possibly coming up with yours. In reality, how difficult are the pet names we usually choose?

One of the better options, if it is offered by your service, is to allow the password reset instructions to be text messaged to your cellular phone. You are usually the only person carrying your cell phone, and if someone does try to hack your account - you will know becuase you are getting the text messages. (gmail offers this)

This largely seems to be a problem with Hotmail. I rarely, if ever, get spam link emails sent to someone's entire address book from friends on Gmail, Yahoo, or any other email service. I know it is hard to change your email address, but if you are using Hotmail - I'd highly recommend switching to another service.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Joburg

Spent our last night and day in Joburg by going out to dinner at a
trendy restaurant and then doing a Soweto tour the next day before
having to depart.

We went to dinner at a place called Moyo in the Melrose Arch area of
Joburg. It's a really lively and happening area of the city and safe
to walk around in. There are many restaurants and bars to chill out
and relax, and to see and be seen. Moyo tried to present a modern
African feel, and the menu served traditional dishes in an upscale
manner. There was live African music, although maybe a little too loud
for the dinner going crowd. It was a great, quick experience of
"modern Africa".

Our Soweto tour (meaning Southwestern Townships) was interesting,
although spoiled by a bad tour guide. I'm actually complaining to the
company and trying to get a refund. Anyway, Soweto is where black
people were moved under Apartheid to keep them out of the city center.
It is a huge area, consisting of multiple townships and 3-5 million
residents. We vistited the Hector Pieterson Museum, named after a boy
who was killed in the student uprising in Soweto on June 16, 1976.
That museum was fascinating and gave a real glimpse into life in
Sowento under Apartheid and the beginning of the civil rights movement
in South Africa. Highly recommended!

Today, people still live in Sowento and a community is thriving. I got
the impression it was a badge of honor and a symbol of solidarity for
people to continue to live there. There is a thriving middle class a d
conditions have improved tremendously there since the end of Apartheid.

About to board the plane back to SF. I have a splitting headache and
am a little irritable. Things move slow in Africa and are sometimes
absurds, but I'm trying my best not to blow a gasket at someone right
now - at least until I get home.

Next Post: Trip wrap up and thoughts on travelling in Africa.

Kruger

Spent 2 nights in Kruger National Park, South Africa. It is a very
large park with well established roads, campsites, picnic areas,
shops, and of course - the good animal population. Its a very nice
park - a jewel. We drove through Limpopo Park in Mozambique to get to
Kruger as they border each other based on the political boundary
between the two countries.

It is great to be in South Africa again: good roads, good doctors
(with quick malaria tests I found), toilets, solid currency, hot
showers, fresh water, etc.

I wish we could have spent more time in Kruger, as it is vast.
Unfortunately we werent able to do it justice, but glad we got there
and experienced it. A highlight for us there was a few more elephant
encounters and an encounter with a pack of hyena!

Spending a day in Johannesburg before heading back to the USA. Got
enough time for a Sowento township tour, and we are hopefully reunited
with our Aussie friends. John is still weak, but out of the hospital.
He has to stay in SA for another week before he is "fit to fly".
Edwina is doing great, just has some serious cabin fever.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tofo and Bilene

Our final days in Mozambique were a bit of a bust because of rain. The
coastal town of Tofo is a fun, tourist friendly town with a beautiful
beach. We had hoped to go snorkeling at the off shore estuary or go
diving with whale sharks & manta rays, but the bad weather prevented
it. There was a good craft market to browse though in the little
center of town.

During our last night in Tofo, I came down with some sort of African
jungle fever (& I don't mean the Spike Lee kind). It was like the flu,
but lacked symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing or sore throat. It
was headache, fever, hot/cold chills, fatigue, spaciness and terrible,
terrible joint aching. I feared I had caught Malaria since another
member of our group went out with it earlier in the tour despite
taking meds. I was sick for 2 days and went to a doctor once back in
South Africa, who tested me for Malaria and confirmed I was negative.
The doctor thought it was just the flu perhaps, which was a relief as
Malaria requires a hospital stay. Of course, I felt better on the 3rd
day. I've never had an illness come on so fast, debilitate me, and
then just go away without a trace. I missed seeing the lagoon around
Bilene as a result, but it was raining most of the time so water
activities were not possible.

I still wish I knew exactly what made me sick. (?????) All better now
though (whew)

Next stop: Kruger Park, South Africa.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dhow

7/19/10: We arrived in Vilankulo, Mozambique - which is a small town
on the coast facing the Indian Ocean. It is tropical and home to
beautiful sand beaches and a few islands just off-shore that have
coral reefs. We took a day trip via dhow (traditional sailing vessel)
to Magaruque Island just off the coast of Vilankulo. The waters around
the mainland and island are surprsingly shallow, and the dhow is well
suited to traverse the shallow waters. Spent the day exploring the
island and snorkeling the reefs where there was an adundance of
tropical marine life. Our guides on the dhow prepared us lunch of
fresh caught crab and barracuda (both delicious) using coals on the
boat. A fantastic day!

7/20/10: We are in the beach town of Tofo, Mozambique today. It is
raining :-( but we are on the beach and the temp is nice. For those
looking on a map we went north to south; from Tete, to Chimoio; to
Vilankulo; to Inhambane; and now Tofo. One more stop before going back
into South Africa (Kruger Park!).

Malaria

7/16/10: Our 2nd day in Mozambique was another transit day while on
our way to the coast. We camped outside the town of Chimoio. Compared
to other towns we've passed through in Moz' and the rural areas,
Chimoio is actually quite nice (nicer than Tete). The town had a nice,
vibrant feel. Lots of activity with a faint musical backdrop of a
calypso, reggae, tropical type of music (I like the music in Moz').
There are modern ammenities like grocery stores, ATM's, pharmacies -
and much of the population seems afluent when compared to the rural
areas. There is a large Coca Cola bottling plant just outside the
town, which I'm sure helps the local economy. Still, you see evidence
of the poor, rural community. For example, outside the parking lot to
the grocery store was a lady walking with a stack of sugar cane on her
head. We bought some from her (sugar cane is delicious and addicting
to chew on I found). That seems to be a common theme in larger towns
throughout Africa; there is a mixture of modern and traditional
lifestyles & a sharp disparity between rich and poor. I stretch to
call it "rich and poor" even. It's more, as mentioned before, simply
people who "have" and people who "have not".

Our real purpose in Chimoio this afternoon though was to visit a
medical clinic. Our friend John has fallen ill with flu like symptoms
and it was getting worse. We thought maybe he had a bad cold or ate
something bad, but a blood test at the clinic confirmed he has
contracted Malaria! It's odd because he was taking Malaria medication,
so we are all very surprised & a little un-nerved as we are all taking
Malaria precautions (in addition to strict hygene & water consumption
precautions). Julia has been off her Malaria meds because it was
giving her migrane headaches, so she is being extra cautious about not
being bit. I am still on the meds though. There are side effects, but
my body acclimated to it in a few days time whereas Julia's did not.
Treatment for John will take 5 days and he will need to be flown to
Johannesburg, SA. It is possible that he & Edwina will rejoin the tour
when we arrive in South Africa at Kruger Park, if he is well enough.
Other than his home in Australia, South Africa is the best place for
John to be sent for treatment.

This experience has made me realize how fortunate we are. We travel to
these 3rd world countries with the full support and infrastructure of
the western countries we come from. John is seen by a private doctor,
in a private clinic, flown to Jo'burg, & given treatment in a first
world hospital. I'm not sure any of the locals nearby would be given
or can afford such care themselves.

UPDATE 7/18/10: John has not only contracted Malaria, but MEASLES as
well!!! Again; un-nerving as John was taking Malaria meds and has an
MMR vaccination! Apparently there is a new outbreak of Measles in
Africa at the moment which is all over the news? Can someone reading
this confirm and comment? We have been disconnected from the media.

7/20/10: John is being released from the hospital soon (hurray!) but
cannot return to the tour. He will stay in Jo'burg. He is better and
that is most important.

Sugar Cane

Sugar cane is an enjoyable thing to chew on, especially on long
drives. You peel back the skin with your teeth, bite off and then chew
on the inside. It has a fiber texture with sweet liquid absorbed into
it. You chew and then spit out the fibers when the sweetness is gone.
It's a little messy and probably not good for your teeth, but it's
very addicting. I love it! We just bought enough for everyone for
$20Mets (less than $1US). They grow lots of cane in Mozambique, &
people are selling produce roadside everywhere so it is easy and cheap
to get here.

We also purchased delicious roasted cashews, pineapple, & oranges from
the roadside, which are all grown here. It's not a roadside stand I'm
talking about, but rather a dozen people waiting at a petrol station
or similar place where people stop. They are all selling the same
things and swarming you for business if you show the slightest
interest. Mozambique in particular is proving to be a difficult place
to buy things because of how aggressive people are in selling - it's
exhausting and makes me not want to deal with buying things unless I
have to.



The Sugar Cane Lady:

Welcome to Mozambique

7/15/10: We left the beauty of Lake Malawi for the Indian Ocean
beaches of Mozambique. It will take us 2 days of travel through the
country to arrive at the shore. We are currently at a stop over in
the town of Tete.

The border crossing from Malawi into Mozambique was time consuming.
First off there is a huge "no mans land" between Malawi and Mozambique
- at least 4km. Not sure why, perhap because of the civil war in
Mozambique which only ended in 1992 (walking in the bush is ill
advised because of land mines). The no mans land distance means you
have to get exited from Malawi, then drive to the Mozambique border
post, and get out again to get entered. The Mozambique authorities are
stricter than we had experienced before. It took a few hours for all
of us to get our visas in order and get permission to enter
Mozambique. They look for excuses to extort money out of you, and when
you do pay a legitimate fee like a visa fee - it seems to fall into
illegitimate hands. Julia and I already had visas, which we had
obtained from home, and this made our personal experience with the
authorities much easier.

While others on our trip were getting clearance, we waited in the
border area. In my other African border crossings, I had not been
harassed as much as I was here. People swarmed our truck upon arrival
trying to sell us things like cigarettes, apples, cell phones, or
phone cards. I said "No thank you" about a thousand times and tried
to remain patient. Many were trying to get us to change money; walking
around with wads of cash. I did not change money because of fears of
getting fleeced (we were warned by the guide). Our guide had to change
money though, understandably to keep the tour going, and was more
experienced in doing so. The guy he traded with looked like a pimp-
wearing a suit whereas everyone else was in tattered clothing - and
the exhancge rate is better on the black market than it is at the
bank. It was shady at best. The shadiest thing about tge border post
was people just hanging around: doing nothing, begging, looking at
you, flat out asking for things (ie: "hey boss, gimme your watch").
Needless to say, we kept close guard over the truck until we were
allowed to leave.

Once driving, the country appeared much poorer than Malawi. I had
expected the worst conditions to be in Malawi. The area we are in is
crowded and dirty. Our campground (named "Jesus e' Bom") is not the
best, but it is on the Zambezi river and there is make-shift plumbing
with hot water heated by a wood fire. Our guides say this is the best
place to stay while on our way to "paradise".

Mozambique seems to be a bit more challenging than others to travel
in. For example, we have to cross a bridge but only 1 lane is open
while the bridge is being retrofitted. It is the only bridge over the
river for miles. They alternate traffic in either direction every HOUR
- and don't keep to the schedule very well. So depending on when you
arrive, you may wait a long time to cross. While you wait, authorities
continually harass you for paperwork in an effort to extort money from
you. When it us finally your turn to cross, they harass you again. Our
guide is definitely earning his wages in just getting us through
Mozambique. There is definitely more corruption here than we had
experienced before. A means to an end though as we are on our way to a
beautiful place.

Note: The children in Mozambique (and Malawi) are more polite than
those in Zambia. When giving out trinkets or pens/notebooks to kids in
school, the kids here are much more calm and patient (no free-for-
all). They also don't speak English (Portugese), but are pretty good
at communicating with gesture.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Malawi

We are camping on a nice beach on the shores of Lake Malawi. The lake
is huge. It feels like being on the ocean. We were scheduled to go
snorkeling today but it is too windy for the boat, so we opted for
visiting a craft market. We purchased several things, and it is
expected that you bargain to bring the price down. You could even
trade goods like baseball caps, clothing, etc. The streets in Malawi
are more crowded than in Zambia. There is a problem with over
population since it is such a small country, half of which is the
water of Lake Malawi. The people are poorer than in Zambia, as there
are few natural resources in Malawi. What they lack in resources, they
make up for in craftsmanship. The craft markets are filled with great
handmade items, some of which are stunning in the skill it took to
make. I might even assume that most of the crafts sold in Africa come
from Malawi.

Mozunga

It took 2 days driving from the capital of Zambia - Lusaka, but we
arrived at South Luangwa National Park to an amazing sunset. Our
campground overlooked the river that divides the national park from
the Game Management Area. We were camping on the GMA side. The roads
into the park are very bad, so much so that our truck got a flat on
the way (see post "Have and Have Not"). The roads are dirt and rock
with potholes. It takes about 3hrs from the nearest paved road via the
dirt road to reach the park. On this road it was very rural, more so
than I had seen before. Many small villages with no ammenities like
electric, running water, phones, and animals pulling carts on rough
roads - although I did see a thatched roof hut with a satellite dish
on it which was interesting.

Camping in the park was a real pleasure as there was electricity and
running hot/cold water, the grounds were grass, and the main lodge had
a pool and bar. The river had a large hippo population. One could
easily see them from the campground, and they were very noisy. In
fact, one came into our campsite around 3am to graze. It was probably
leas than 10' away from where we were sleeping in a tent! Camping is
good on this trip as it extends our range; there isn't always a hotel
to stay in at some of the key locations (like this one).

Our first full day was spent doing a morning and a night game drive.
Julia and I were lucky to have had some great game drives in Chobe,
Botswana - and the South Luangwa drives were icing on the cake. We
missed seeing cats in Chobe, but were able to see a pride of Lions
resting during the day and 3 Leopards during the night drives. It
really was an incredible experience to see these elusive animals in
their natural habitat, especially the Leopards at night. We also took
a walking safari through the bush with a guide and an armed escort
where we tracked a tower of Giraffe.

In addition, a few of us from the camp got a chance to see the World
Cup final (Spain v Nederlands). We had to hire a car to take us to
another lodge about 30 minutes away that had TV, Cable, and
electricity. The vehicle was an open safari truck and they charged $5/
pp for a round trip. We arrived in time to see the 2nd half (things
move slow in Africa). The bar was crowded with people from all over.
We all crowded around a 19" TV to watch. Memorable.

On our final day in South Luangwa, we visited a local village with
hopes of playing soccer with the locals. Our guide Chris was able to
get us an invitation to the remote village and helped break the ice
once we got there. These people were remote and poor, probably
farmers. The village was primitive by western standards, but clean and
liveable. I don't think they see white people very often (their word
for us is "Mozunga"). Some kids may never have seen white people
before. They would stare at us and giggle sometimes, other times
touching our skin. I responded with being friendly and smiling,
shaking their hands. The kids especially loved Julia's hair. They
looked on with amazement when she would take it down and they would
all want to touch it.

We got our soccer game organized eventually. It was 8 on 8 - on a
small dirt field with wooden tree branch goals (no nets) and a well
worn, slightly deflated soccer ball. There was no referee, just a
timekeeper, so we all just agreed on the calls. The Zambians played
barefoot, while the 3 "Mozunga" (plus our guide Chris who is Zambian)
played with shoes. It was the greatest 45 minutes of soccer I've ever
played. I had a few good touches and a memorable header. Our friend
John scored a goal. We had quite a crowd watching, maybe the whole
village. They would cheer and sing songs during play. When someone
would score a goal people would cheer, sing, and kids would rush out
onto the field doing cartwheels. It was amazing! At the end of the
match, I was filthy from the dust. I'm still coughing up dirt, but it
was well worth it. We were impressed with how well they played, given
that they have so little to play with. They are really good soccer
players! John and Edwina had a brand new soccer ball on the truck that
they bought for themselves, but decided to give it to the village as a
gift. The soccer coach of the village gathered everyone around and
announced that the "Mozunga" gave the village a new ball, and everyone
cheered! They put on a dance for us while we had our guide Chris give
kids some trinkets and pens/paper we had (we made him deal with the
free-for-all; see post "Have and Have Not"). I really can't imagine a
better cultural experience. I think we made a positive impression on
the people of that village; provided some entertainment; and showed we
cared. We were glowing about it for the rest of the day and will
remember it for the rest of our lives as a great moment.

Next stop: Malawi

Note: Most places we stayed in Zambia have been surprised to see us
(Americans). They say not too many Americans come through. Makes us
feel like pioneers of sort.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Have and Have Not

Since entering rural Zambia, we have come across many children. They
come out of the woodwork to wave at us as we go by. When we stop, we
are tempted to given them small gifts or food. Most of us brought
small trinkets with us to give out to kids. Julia and I have colored
ballpoint pens, pads of paper, colored hair ties, & balloons. Our
friends John & Edwina from Austalia brought these cute kawala bear
stuffed animals that hang on a window.

It's especially tempting to give when kids are asking for food, but
our guide has asked us not to encourage a begging behavior in children
by giving hand outs. He suggests finding kids who are in school and
asking them a question like "Who is the President of Zambia?" or
asking them to recite a poem they learned in school before giving
anything. It's hard to tell though which kids are in school and which
are not. These kids are not starving, but food is precious. Although
heartbreaking at times, our guide Chris is right.

We did have one instance where we blew a tire on a rural road. About
15 kids came out and we were having a good time talking to them. As
time went by while we were changing the tire, more and more continued
to come out. They sang us a song so Julia and I decided to give them
some balloons. We believed we had enough to go around. Once I
presented them though, it turned into a free-for-all. The kids are
just so starved for entertainment, and there are just so many of them
amd so little resources (toys?) that any one person could not
accommodate them all without going broke. Each kid was desperate to
get a balloon, and I do meant *desperate*. I could see it in their
eyes. Unfortunately for our balloons, an older kid grabbed the bag out
of Edwina's hands before we could finish giving them out (we were
taking turns and it wasn't her fault). We wanted to give something to
every kid, but it is just impossible - either by the volume of kids or
the competition among them.

One thing we do give out regularly though is excess food. Any
leftovers that would normally be thrown away go to whoever is around,
and it is always gladly accepted. We just need to be quick and
targeted in handing it out to avoid the "free-for-all".

Instant Coffee

I haven't had a decent cup of coffee since Cape Town (over a week
ago). All coffee served in Zambia is instant coffee. It's terrible. In
the supermarket, there is an entire aisle of tea and tea related
accessories, bur only a small shelf of coffee related items. I'm
guessing people in Zambia don't really drink coffee, and I'm expecting
the same in for my future in Malawi & Mozambique. I want *real*
coffee! Where there's a will, there's a way.

While in the supermarket in Lusaka, I bought real ground coffee. There
was only one brand - regular or decaf. It might not be the best
ground, but it is real coffee. I found paper filters in the tea
accessory section, so bought them too. Finding a filter cone to use to
pour water through the filter & coffee though was proving impossible.
There may not be one in the entire country! They had a small French
press plunger for sale, but it was too expensive and made of glass -
which would break with the type of travel I am doing. I had to create
another way.

Thinking outside the box, I went to the automotive section and found a
plastic funnel used for auto oil (new, of course). It cost the
equivelant of 25 cents. I cut the long end of the spout off and put
some filter paper in the funnel hole to slow the drip so the coffee
would steep.

We named the contraption "Sputnik". Goodbye, instant coffee.

Southern Cross

We spent the last 3 days along the banks of the lower Zambezi River in
ZambiaWeTher Zambezi is a mighty river- spanning across at least a few
miles, with Zambia on one side and Zimbabwe on the other. It is fast
flowing at 12km/hr and abundant with wildlife. We camped for 1 night,
and had the pleasure of staying at a very hospitable lodge on the
river bank called Mvuu Lodge for the next 2 nights.

The river is home to many animals; the largest of which are crocodile,
elephant, & hippopotamus. Hippos are fascinating creatures and we
enjoyed spotting them. They are usually submerged but we were
fortunate enough to get glimpses of them out of water and of one
opening it's mouth. They can be dangerous if provoked, so we needed to
keep our distance. At night, they come out of the water to graze and
their calls can be heard. We enjoyed falling asleep to their noises
and have gotten pretty good at imitating it (which is pretty funny).

We spent time on the river by taking a sunset cruise one day and a
canoe trip the next. Canoeing was interesting as we were warned not to
put any part of our body in the water (so be careful not to tip I
guess?). We only had a problem at the end of our canoe trip when we
had to disembark. We missed our landing by about 20 meters and had to
get out of the canoes on a steep bank. Paddling upstream was
impossible as the river flows too fast. The river bank we stopped at
appeared ankle deep, however once we exited the canoes we quickly sank
to our thighs in quicksand-like mud and got stuck in the water. Full
of mud now - we laughed it off but were thanking heaven there were no
crocs nearby as we were floundering in the water trying to get ashore.

What made these days even more special was how remote it was. The best
way to get to Mvuu was by boat as there are no paved roads closeby. A
2hr boatride down the river could easily take all day by land to go
the same distance. There was no electricity, but the lodge had a
generator that ran during the day to charge battery operated
appliances. We were able to watch 1 half of the Spain v Germany World
Cup semifinal game before the TV battery power cut out. No electricity
though means no lights at night. The night sky was amazing and I was
able to see the Southern Cross and other constillations for the first
time (the Scorpion constillation is another favorite of mine). I look
for the Southern Cross nightly now. The accommodations at Mvuu were
platform tents each with an outdoor bathroom. Sounds rustic, and it
was - but it was also very comfortable (beds) and put us in synch with
the amazing environment around us.

Next - we are stopping in Lusaka (the capital and the largest city in
Zambia) for supplies before driving off grid again to South Luwanga
game park. Also, Julia and I have made friends with a couple on our
tour from Australia (John & Edwina). Doing activities with them has
definitely added to the fun- we are a team.

Picture is of sunrise over the Zambezi River.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rural Zambia

Today we did our first long drive in the truck (pictured - along the
way) as we left Livingstone for the Kafue River in Zambia; where we
plan to canoe. Along our way we saw the rural countryside. Most
structures are primitive, built from a combination of manufactured and
natural materials. There is a surprising amount of activity from town
to town and the people appear to be able to afford basic needs plus
more. Farming, herding, and likely trade amongst each other seem to
comprise the main rural economy. There are modern ammenities; such as
modern petrol stations, electricity, running water; from town to town
but these ammenities are sparce in between towns where some people
live. Everyone though appears to be in the same socio-economic
position: poor by western standards but not the poorest globally. If
there is a difference in class based on wealth in Zambia, then it is
almost too subtle to tell; except in Livingstone (Vic Falls) where
there are more modern ammenities and more money because of tourism.

Note: Our truck is a beacon in the rural areas, as you might imagine.
People, kids mostly, come running and waving to greet us. It's a bit
bizarre but we smile and try to be friendly.

Currency in Zambia

Thought it might be worth commenting on the currency in Zambia, as
paying for things has proven to often be a royal pain in the ass. Visa
is dicey at best. They dont even know of other credit/debit cards. The
cash economy is a multi-currency system in that they accept the
Zambian Kwatcha (of course), but they also accept South African Rand,
British Pound, & US Dollars. The Kwatcha is only good in Zambia. No
bank outside Zambia will change it, so you don't want to leave Zambia
with a lot of it. $1 is worth $5000K, so if you changed $100US you
would end up with a huge stack of Zambian bills much bigger than a
$100 stack of US singles (there are no coins). A hamburger might cost
$30,000K ($6US). I try not to hold more than $20 worth of Kwatcha at a
time. Paying for things often involves using a combination of
currencies and the use of a calculator to convert. No one ever has
very much change and using even a $20 bill is too much. I wish I had
brought smaller bills. They need to figure this out for their economy
to improve or evolve I think. Zimbabwe money is even more reduculous
(& worthless). Guys on the street will try to sell you actual 100
Trillion Dollar Zimbabwe notes as a souvenir. This is coming from a
place, though, where everything is useful and nothing is thrown away.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Victoria Falls

Julia and I are at a lodge along the Zambezi river outside
Livingstone, Zambia. I call Zambia "the Vegas of Africa" because they
aim to please and you can do it all here. Bungee, hele rides, game
drives, you name it. None of it us cheap either. The currency is do
devalued they take dollars. 1$ = $5000Kwatcha so changing even $20
leaves you with a wad of bills. We went on a hekecopter ride over the
falls to ensure we saw them because the mist is so intense that if you
walk the falls you may not be able to see them. (You can see the mist
in the pic which is from the top of the falls. The mist can be seen
from 50k away) Later, we walked the falls and were fortunate enough to
see them, but got drenched. It is an amazing place. We also went on a
Rhino walk in the Mosi-O-Tunya park and were brought by armed guard to
within 15 yards of a wild Rhino. It was a priviledge to be so close to
such a mighty animal. The armed guards are not only for our
protection- they guard the Rhinos from poachers 24/7. They are
military with AK-47s. Today we ate doing a lion walk with lion cubs
who are being raised to ve reintroduced into the wild. We met up with
our overland tour and are headed down the Zambezi river toward Lusaka,
Zambia (the capital) tomorrow. Internet may get even less.

4 Corners

We arrived in Zambia from Botswana. The border we crossed is actually
a meeting point of 4 countries: Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and
Zimbabwe. The border is a river and is crowded with trucks (and
people) needing to cross, but there are only two ferrys that take
trucks across and each only carry two trucks. The truck line was very
long and we heard that some truckers could wait as long as a week to
cross. It is much easier to cross without a vehicle. We paid a fee for
"fixers" to arrange our crossing. They helped coordinate a combination
of cars on both sides and a boat in between to take us across, and
they also ushered us through immigration. It was chaotic and not well
marked, so having a guy to tell you exactly which building to walk to
and who to talk to was worth the money. We got across in a few hours
whereas without them it may have taken all day plus much stress. We
arrived in Livingstone, Zambia; which I have dubbed "the Vegas of
Africa"- more on that in the next post.

Flickr update: still no reliable open Internet access so my camera is
not uploading pics. A few from Cape Town did upload though, & I'm
still uploading the odd iPhone pic.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mabele Primary School

While in Botswana, we visited a primary school in a remote village
near Chobe park. The school had up to 7th grade and we got to visit a
5th grade class. The teacher showed us a bit about the curriculum and
the kids sang us a song. The kids all wear uniforms and everyone had
their hair cut short so it is hard to tell boy fr girl except that
girls wear skirts. Afterwards, we got to socialize with the kids.
Julia made a friend, named Precious who was a very cute and friendly
5th grade girl. The kids were all very interested in meeting us and I
think they enjoyed having visitors. For some reason, no one in
Botswana wears sunglasses. They saw Julia's glasses and my camera (I
brought the point & shoot thus day so it was less pretentious), and
all of them wanted to have their picture taken with the glasses on. It
was quite a fun time for them to have their photos taken and to
immediately see it on the camera. Although the school looked fairly
well supplied, I got the impression that a digital camera was a
luxury. We have some fantastic photos that I hope to share soon, but
open wireless connections to the Internet have been rare so I've had
trouble uploading photos from the camera. We asked if there is
anything we could give the school, and learned that they really want a
Santa Claus suit so they can celebrate Christmas (which they do on
November 25th instead of December 25th). We plan to send one to them.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chobe

We have been in Chobe National Park in northern Botswana for the past
3 nights. We stayed at a safari lodge just adjacent to the park. I
realized we weren't in Kansas anymore when our prop plane landed at
the sleepy airport in Kasane, Botswana. The days have been filled with
game drives through the park. The park is a truly amazing place,
absolutely abundant with wildlife. The government of Botswana (using
their army) has done a good job protecting the park from poachers and
enforcing strict rules for tourists. It is afterall a valuable
resource for tourism and a natural wonder. On our game drives and boat
rides we have seen the gammit of animals: zebra, giraffe, antelope,
elephants, buffalo, and much more. There is also an abundance of
baobab trees- huge trees and my favorite in the world. The only thing
we missed were cats (lions, leopards) who are very elusive. Perhaps at
our next destination. I'll try my best to get some photos up on
flickr. Tomorrow we are heading to Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria
Falls.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

South African Wines

Spent the day exploring the wine regions outside Cape Town, South
Africa. I kind of felt like that French guy in the movie "Bottle
Shock" in that I knew nothing of the wines or region, was unable to
buy anything because of lack of luggage space (we are travelling
light), but wanted to learn and taste - and found wines that were
world class where we did not expect it. We skipped the tourist bus and
hired a knowledgeable driver to take us around after explaining that
we knew wine, just not South African wine. The wine regions around Cape Town are huge, far surpassing Napa/Sonoma in size and number of wineries. We visited the up and
coming Paarl region, the French influenced Franschhoek region, and the
Dutch influenced Stallenbosch region. Our guide took us to both big
and small wineries. Two notable varieties they produce in SA that I
have not seen elsewhere are the Chenin Blanc & the Pinotage. Chenin
Blanc is perhaps a cross between a Chardonnay and a Savignon Blanc,
while a Pinotage is like a cross between a Syrah and a Cabernet
Savignon. I can see how a pure Pinotage can be difficult for some
people to swallow but many vinters make delicious, more desireable
blends with it. One winery worth noting on our tour was Lynx in the
Franschhoek region. He's a German engineer who knew nothing of
agriculture and bought a grape farm (table grapes). He soon ripped out
the table grapes and planted wine grapes. His operation is small, only
producing 10-15 barrels per variety and all made by hand. Check out
his cement tanks pictured in the attached link. It's hard work that
definitely showed in the quality of his wines.

http://www.lynxwines.co.za/cellar.html

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cape of Good Hope

Today we stood at the Cape of Good Hope and had the obligatory photo
taken of us by the famous sign. A cheesy tourist thing to do, but a
must nonetheless. More important than being at the tip of the Cape is
the journey to get there. The landscape is majestic. Think Big Sur
meets Hawaii. In addition we visited an ostrich farm where I fed some
(they are big creatures) and visited Kirstenbosch; a botanical garden
dedicated to preserving local flora. I hugged a big Baobab tree there.
We decided to eat at a nice restaurant this evening. I had wharthog.
It tasted like pork tenderloin with a hint of game. Very enjoyable
meal and great value for money compared to the US. Tomorrow we are
headed to wine country to learn about South African wines. We are
keenly aware that we are headed to harsher conditions in Botswana day
after next, so enjoying the European feel of Cape Town while we can.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Robben Island & Table Mountain

Today we took the ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was
imprisoned for many years as a political prisoner. As our tour guide
said though, "there were many Mandela's imprisoned here", today many
of whom hold government office in South Africa. The island is flat and
dry, 5km by 2km. The prison itself is immaculate and upkept well. In
the photo, taken from the top of Table Mountain, you can see Robben
Island. It was a gorgeous day today too.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Great Game

The Landon Donovan penalty kick goal versus Ghana was perhaps the best
World Cup goal i've ever witnessed. We started the night at the FIFA
Fan Camp in Cape Town (which was free & awesome), but it was terribly
windy so we ended up at an "Irish" pub on the party street of Cape
Town (think SOMA in SF or Houston St in NY). Most South Africans were
for Ghana simply because they were the last African nation left in the
tournament. When they would chant "Lets go Ghana", US fans would chant
"You're from Europe". Brutal. Nonetheless, a great experience. Africa
celebrates tonight. (pic is of me in Fan Park. PS: Internet is a
precious commodity in Africa I've learned, so my Eye-fi card does not
work from my camera, hence you are only getting crapy iPhone photos-
which don't require an open network. My Flickr stream will be lacking.
Everyone has their wifi protected up the wazoo here)

Arrived in Cape Town

We arrived in Cape Town after travelling for 24 hours. World Cup fever
is more prominent than we expected in South Africa. Our plane ride had
many people who were headed to S.A. for just that reason. Once off the
plane, it didn't take long to find vuvuzela's for sale (they cost
about $15). On the streets, many wear their country's colors and I'd
say 1/3 if the South African population wear yellow/green shirts to
celebrate the World Cup. You hear vuvuzela's everywhere - airport,
streets, etc. We are among few tourists not here specifically for the
World Cup. Today (our first full day) we plan on touring some of the
more ethnically diverse areas of Cape Town, after receiving great
instructions from our B&B host.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Epic Journey - Day 1

Julia and I are headed to Cape Town, South Africa - passing briefly through Johannesburg long enough to catch a connecting flight. It is the beginning of an epic journey that took many months to plan and a life long dream to fuel. I wish I had an interesting photo to commemorate the moment, like of my bag - but it is still being packed. Think BACKPACK!

We will be in south/east Africa for several weeks, highlights of which include:
We hope to post pictures and updates here and at my Flickr Photo Stream when possible.

I apologize in advance for any typos. Blog posts from Africa were painstakingly written on an iPhone.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bingo!

The side of a building in NYC

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Need a Bear Box in Tahoe?

Call this guy. Bob is his name and I like what he is doing by making bear box art out of scrap metal. I called him to repair an existing bear box when another guy got flaky, and Bob was 'johnny on the spot' - which is a rare find in Tahoe sometimes where people operate on Tahoe Time. If we are ever in the market to replace our bear box, or if we need another repair; we'll certainly give Bob a call.

How cool, right?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Ballad Of Curtis Loew


Phish is back on tour - Summer 2010
Cuyahoga Falls, OH - 6/12/10 - Set I

Originally performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

Dollar Point Dock, Lake Tahoe

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Phoenix - "Armistice"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I just want to understand and get an idea of why and how much you love Phish?

I was asked to explain the reason why I like Phish so much. Why would I go so far out of my way to go to shows and plan for multiple shows. My response came from the heart. Thought I would post it.
I have always loved music. In high school I listened to classic rock a lot, got into the grateful dead, and was lucky enough to see a few cool concerts.
I entered college and was in a very impressionable point in my life. Ithaca had an amazing music scene for a small town in upstate New York so I started seeing music a lot more. Within a month or so of being in college, I saw Phish at a bar called the Haunt with a few hundred people. I was 17 years old.

They left a lasting impression. Throughout my 5 years in Ithaca I saw a ton of amazing music, but seeing Phish (who toured the northeast a lot in the early 1990's) was always the crown jewel.

When I moved out west, I saw Phish less and drifted away from listening to them. Then they started to suck. Then they went on hiatus. Then they broke up.

Now in my near middle adulthood, they are back and they don't suck. They remind me of my youth and every time I see them in concert I am reminded of how it felt to have that musical awakening 20 years ago. I also feel like this is limited, they will not be doing this for another 20 years - and NO concert experience will ever do this for me again.
That said, it is not more important to me than being with my family.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost Finale

Best moment for me. So much so I had to loop it.



Thank you Jorge Garcia! Hurley was always my favorite character and I was glad to see how he developed right up to the end.

For a REAL summary of Lost, one that is better than I could ever dream of writing, check out Estella's post (she's responsible for getting me hooked on Lost in the first place):
Embracing The End: LOST's Finale and What It Means to Me

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Is Here


I took a short hiatus from my blog. I think I'm ready to bring it back.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Snowfest 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Squaw with Billy

A great weekend up at Squaw. Dad came out from NY and got on ski's for the first time in 6 years! He went for 2 days and did great. On top of that, my friend Alessa came up for a day and took a 4 hour lesson and learned to ski (Alessa is in the blue pants)! I'm happy I was able to spread the joy of skiing this week.



Monday, February 1, 2010

Squawlywood

A few quick iPhone snapshots from the top of Squaw Valley.




Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPhone cannot be synced

I received an error recently while trying to synch my iPhone. I searched the Internet and did not find a clear cut solution to fix it. I figured the problem out on my own and am posting the issue and resolution for future reference; in case anyone else has the same issue and happens to search for the solution.

Error:
This error occurs while in iTunes and attempting to sync your iPhone to new content:
"iPhone 'x' cannot be synced. The required file cannot be found."

Versions:
Mac OSX 10.6.2
iPhone 3G 3.1.2
iTunes 9.0.2
iPhoto 8.1.1

Root Cause:
Photos were not syncing from iPhoto to iPhone via iTunes properly because the "iPod Photo Cache" was either changed or corrupted.

In my case, I recently used CleanMyMac to free up some disk space and it deleted the iPod Photo Cache. Later, when I attempted to resync my iPhone; the photos on the iPhone did not match the photos in the iPod Photo Cache, causing the error.

Fix:
  1. In iTunes, select options on the Photos tab to manually manage photos that synch to iPhone. (Select option to "select albums..." and include "no events")
  2. Uncheck all photos (Albums, Events, Faces) and sync. The result will be a sync that removes all photos from the iPhone.
  3. Next, follow these instructions from Apple to delete the "iPod Photo Cache".
  4. Once complete, return to iTunes and select which photo albums/events/faces (or all) you want to sync to iPhone and sync.
The issue should now be resolved as iPhoto will create a new iPod Photo Cache and sync your photos without error. As always, back up your data before deleting or altering system configurations. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mustard In The Vineyards

I was up in Napa this past weekend and noticed great beauty in the now dormant vineyards. The mustard undergrowth is blooming a brilliant yellow! At first I thought it was just a weed with a fortunate feature, but soon realized that the mustard was not growing everywhere like an unwanted weed would. It seemed to be isolated to the vineyards.


I asked around and learned that it does indeed have a purpose (other than looking beautiful in the middle of winter). Mustard blooms in late January and early February, and provides a habitat for birds and animals who feed on vineyard pests. Additionally, the root system of the mustard allows nutrients to be absorbed more readily into the soil, which in turn help the vineyard. Once buds break in spring, the mustard is cut back so as not to take too much water away from the vines.

Usefulness aside, color in winter is a nice treat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chinese Steel

WHY are we buying Chinese steel for the new span of the Oakland Bay Bridge? Have we not learned our lessons yet with children's toys and milk? China has a long way to go in regulating industry quality before it can be trusted. Also, think of the JOBS it would create or support if the steel came from the United States! Does the United States not make steel anymore? I can't imagine a better thing for the economy than a $6.3 billion dollar project where all parts and labor are sourced domestically.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sitting Here in Limbo

Jerry Garcia & David Grisman
Sitting Here In Limbo
Warfield Theatre
San Francisco, CA
12/7/91

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Corinna

Corinna: new favorite Phish song of the day (a Taj Mahal cover). This recording is from 12/30/09; Miami,FL (New Years Run 2009-2010).



Seeing this video of Taj Mahal singing it makes me love it even more:



THE Taj Mahal?
Surrre, you know The Taj?

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009: Year of the Phish

Reflection...

By far one of the most exciting things that happened in 2009 for me, was the reuniting of Phish and my ability to go to 3 shows (Shoreline and the Gorge) plus Festival 8.

From their exciting reunion at Hampton in March 2009; which showed me they were back for real and were still good; to ringing in the new year in Miami with crazy onstage antics reminiscent of the good old days - wow what a year for Phish.

Bring on 2010 tour dates please.

Happy New Year

How will you pronounce "2010"?

I hear people saying "Twenty-Ten", which is different than the way we have been saying the year for the past 10 years (two thousand, two thousand one, two thousand two, etc) - BUT this means we are back to saying the year the way it was said in the 1900's (nineteen ninety, nineteen ninety one, nineteen ninety two, etc). No one ever really said "one thousand nine hundred ninety nine" or "nineteen hundred ninety nine for 1999, as would be assumed since people were saying "two thousand nine" for 2009 instead of "twenty O-nine" (or "nineteen O-9" for 1909). They said 1999 like "nineteen ninety nine"!

So, is it "Twenty Ten" or "Two Thousand Ten"?

I'm going with "Twenty Ten".