Sunday, September 30, 2012


Yesterday we visited Florence, known locally as Firenze. The first stop was to visit the local Academy of Art, home of Michaelangelo's David, considered on of the worlds finest sculptures, and many other works of fine art. Because of a strike the previous day, yesterday's patrons were also competing for space, and the lines for entry were very long.

This picture is not the original David, but rather a copy that stands in a city square where the original stood for 300 years before being moved indoors. There were no photos allowed in the Academy. That statue is a little off; I always thought David was Jewish, if you know what I mean...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I Can'ta Believe a I ate a da Whole a Thinga!

Antipasto Toscana:


Rule 5 Saturday - Looka Data Girl!

A little something different for Rule 5 Saturday. I'm traveling in Italy this week, and one of the things to do in Italy is girl watching. I know, it's a tougha jobs but a somebody has a to do it, and it might as well a be me. A few girl, Italian and/or tourist, out and about on the streets.

First, Venice, along the Grand Canal:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Earths

Today we visited Quinque Terra, more literally, the five places. Quinque Terra is a collection of five small villages nestled in steep valleys on the coast of the Liguarian Sea, just north of Tuscany.

One of the villages of Quinque Terra.

The land around Quinque Terra is terraced up to a 1000 ft above sea level. They grow many grapes, some olives, some lemon, and sell a lot of tourist stuff.

There are a couple of small beaches.

And a few people using them

There are, however, lots of sightseers, and shoppers.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Under the Tuscan Rain

Actually, that's not exactly fair. The weather today in Tuscany was about as variable as it could be, anywhere from just slightly cloudy to a drenching rain.

Our target for today was Lucca, an old walled city, originally a city-state, and home of Georgia and Mary's grandfather, Guiseppi.

The outer wall of old Lucca, about 3 miles in circumference.

St. Mark's Basilica and Square

I'm going to take advantage of today's coach ride to step back a little and fill in yesterday afternoon. After we left the Doge's Palace, we stepped around the corner to St. Mark's Square and Basilica:

The horses above one of the main doors of the Basilica.

The story of how some Venetian traders stole to body of St. Mark from the Arabs of Alexandria, Egypt, so that they could bring him to Venice to become their patron saint. Our local guide, Emmuellia (sp?) told us this story quite proudly.

A picture, taken without flash from inside the Basilica, of the tomb of St. Mark.

Looking out across the square. An amazing crowd. Check out the billboard down at the far end. Recognize anyone?

Scarlet Johansson selling sparkling wine. I love the 16x zoom on my new Lumix camera.

Using the full 32 x using optical and digital zoom. This is the first camera where the digital zoom seems good, usually it's pretty grainy. OK, just one mor St. Mark's Square shot.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dinner and a Ride

After our exertions this morning, we took a siesta, or whatever they call it in Italian. By the time we had recovered it was time to eat again! We headed across the bridge over the Grand Canal, and found, surprise, surprise, and Italian Restaurant. John had linguini and clams, again, Mary had gnocchi, Georgia had chicken, and I had the cuttlefish on spaghetti, in black ink sauce.

After dinner, we persuaded the girls to allow us to take them on a gondola ride. There may have been a day when they were theVenetian equivalent of taxis, but those days are long gone. Now they're simply a tourist ride.

It was rather nice, actually, while the gondolier didn't sing, some drunk on a back street (canal?) was singing an old Beatle song (There are places I remember), and not even too badly. We went on some back canals we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Venezia Secondo Giorno

After meeting with our tour group last night over dinner, we struggled back to our hotel and got a good nights sleep.

This morning, after a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we climbed into a boat for a trip out to the island of Murano, where the Venetian glass blowers have been exiled for the last few centuries, to avoid burning down the rest of the city. We watched as one of the local craftsmen made a vase and a horse, taking a few minutes each.

They showed us through the showroom in hopes of selling us something expensive but Georgia settled on a small pair of earrings.

Next, we went back to Venice proper, for a tour of the Doge's Palace. The tour director was temporarily replaced by a local woman who knew the local history well, and had a fun slant on it.

Above from the Dofes Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, looking out for the Bridge of sighs, and the frieze above the place where secret accusations of treason were submitted.


Pastries in a pastry shop windo, and the pastry girl.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where Are We Now?

After a long ride from New York, and a brief dash through Heathrow Airport, with a special stop at security for the water bottle we took off the jet, and another 3 hr flight, we ended up at our first major stop on the trip.

Does that help? As soon as we got checked in we went out to find a SIM card for the IPad so we could have e-mail and blog access. As promised we only had to walk a few blocks down the avenue to find a store that sold them. Voila!

This one should do the trick! 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sitting Here Just Resting My Bones

On the first stage of the journey. We almost had it cut short by President Obama, who caused a "VIP" emergency. Our plane did several circles over the Jersey Shore, and the pilot said we might have to turn back to Baltimore, but we landed at JFK a little late, but in plenty of time to catch the next flight.

Actress Pulls a Weiner

The Newsroom star Alison Pill has just provided material for newsrooms everywhere, as she accidentally tweeted a topless picture of herself out to her 14,000+ followers.

The snapshot (NSFW), which she has since removed from her Twitter feed, features her wearing glasses and grinning while nude on a mattress. Some speculate the picture was intended for the eyes of fiancé Jay Baruchel, but either way, the actress was a good sport about the whole thing and tweeted an apology for the image...
What's to apologize for; haven't we we all 'accidentally' sent nude or semi-nude our followers?  I mean, I did it 3 times last week alone.  Too bad I don't have any followers...

As for Stacey McCain's suggestion that Alison is, to put it crudely "Meh", better Alison than Stacey McCain.  She does need practice in composition, a better camera, and a realization that gravity is not always your best friend.  Ditching the glasses wouldn't be a bad idea either.  Practice, practice, practice!  And let me be the judge of the results...

As for rumors that she did it to shore up a flagging career? No actress has ever resorted to such tactics before, have they

Most Insane Volcano Footage of All Time

From the comments:
You should have brought one of those pie-tin things of jiffy-pop with you and then sold it to the popcorn company as a commercial to pay for some of your trip. (plus who doesn't like a snack after being irrationally close to a huge lake of lava?? I know I do!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Free the Obama Video!

The Los Angeles Times, like most major media outlets, covered the leak of a video in which Mitt Romney speaks candidly to supporters about his beliefs regarding the economy and the Middle East peace process.

The video has thrown the Romney campaign off-track and undercut Romney’s outreach to the elderly and the struggling middle class. Journalists and editorialists have reacted almost with glee as they construct an unflattering image of the “real Mitt Romney.”

While the Los Angeles Times should not be faulted for covering what has become a national story, the juxtaposition of its Romney video coverage with its refusal to release an equally embarrassing video of Barack Obama feting former PLO Beirut spokesman and University of Chicago historian Rashid Khalidi is telling. In the video taken at a goodbye party as his friend departed for a new post at Columbia University, Obama reportedly talked perhaps too candidly about his views of the Middle East. That the Los Angeles Times refuses to release the video shows complete and utter hypocrisy.
If it weren't for double standards, they'd have none at all.

Apparently the Tiger Agreed

Mauled NY man: I wanted to be one with the tiger  

But it's idea was to put him in it's stomach: 
Before his now-infamous tangle with a Bronx Zoo tiger, David Villalobos adorned his Facebook page with New Age odes to Mother Earth and affirmations like, "Be love and fearless."

Police said Saturday that Villalobos had told detectives that it was without fear that he leaped from an elevated train into the animal's den. His reason, they said, was that "he wanted to be one with the tiger."
So close...

Americans Love Affair With Tuna

Because it’s cheap and bland. Most of the tuna consumed in 19th-century America was imported in cans from France and served to European guests at upscale East Coast restaurants. Mainstream Americans considered the fish too gamey, until a cannery in San Pedro Bay, Calif., figured out that the steamed white meat of albacore tuna has very little flavor if you drain the fish’s own oil and can the meat with olive or cottonseed oil instead. The company began marketing the product as a chicken alternative in 1907. It distributed thousands of free recipe booklets, which contained mostly classic chicken or canned salmon recipes with tuna as a substitute.

Americans found that tuna’s flavor was hardly noticeable in the right sauce, and sales began to rise. The tuna revolution really took off, however, during World War I. European countries, and eventually the American government, bought the inexpensive canned fish to feed the troops. (Uncle Sam was so desperate for protein during the Great War that the government even tried to push whale as a beef substitute.) Returning soldiers continued eating tuna, which displaced salmon as America’s fish of choice by the 1940s, and fishing boats had to venture further and further from shore to satisfy demand.

Canned tuna also owes its early success to El Niño. The California Fish Company, which popularized canned tuna in America, originally specialized in sardines. A change in the weather in 1903, however, pushed the tiny fish out of San Pedro Bay, forcing the company to experiment with substitutes like halibut and rock cod, eventually settling on albacore.
The collapse of the sardine fishery in California (and in fact, the US West Coast) is an interesting story.  It has generated one of the great studies in Marine Biology, the CalCOFI (California Co-operative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations) studies, which carried out enormous amounts of basic oceanographic and fisheries research models off the California coast.

It turns out that sardines and anchovies trade off period of long term dominance in a pattern controlled by the climate; during periods of warmer water, sardines predominate, in times of cold water, anchovies are the most important forage fish.  There was a very neat study using fish scales that accumulate in sediment that showed how they have alternated in abundance over the past 1700 years

Linked at The Classical Liberal "Doom and Gloom" Linkfest, and at The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.

First Chill at the Beach

With the first full day of Fall, we had a distinct change in the weather.  The temperature dropped into the 50s overnight, and this morning, a 20 mph north wind made the beach decidedly on the chilly side.  Shorts and a T-shirt were just barely adequate.
Again, it was sunny and all but cloudless.  I did see one Osprey again, but only this Bald Eagle presented a decent shot for a picture.
 A shot into the sun, just for the heck of it.
A family came down to the beach to play a little volley ball.  Much like Drew Carrie's show, the points didn't seem to matter.

Another try with the 3D feature on the camera...

Fracking Foes Jump the Shark

In their desperation to block Gov. Cuomo from giving the okay for fracking in New York, die-hard opponents of the natural gas drilling technology are floating laugh-out-loud-funny health and environmental threats.

Most hilariously, the enviro-activists have demanded that state officials explore an alleged link between fracking and — we kid you not — syphilis.

They argue that a drilling boom would draw an influx of male workers from other states who would engage in activities of a kind that would spread sexually transmitted diseases.

They also contend that a boom would trigger a housing crunch, adding to homelessness and the health ailments that go along with it.

And that increased truck traffic would not only lead to more road fatalities, but would also — again, no kidding — discourage people from getting the outdoor exercise they need to stay fit.

This is absurd. If New York starts saying no to entire industries on the grounds they might trigger population changes, rising home prices and truck traffic, it might as well turn out the lights.
This is a pretty common pattern in the extreme environmentalist movement.  Claim that whatever they want stopped has effects on X, which has effects on Y, which may have effects on Z that they assume will be negative, and usually the end of the world as we know it.

Sure, the world is full of unintended consequences, and many of them are negative, but the alternative is living in a cave in Africa, living a short life due to leopard predation and untreated diseases.  Most often you treat the unintended consequences and move on.

Remember, they're not pro-environment, they're anti-human.
jump the shark:

a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.

Engineering Students Get a Thrill

Students at an Engineering school in Korea watch the group "Waveya".  For a slightly better look, here they are doing "Gangnam Style".


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Joel and Red in 3D!

Earlier, I said I had tried to take a photo of Joel in 3D.  I went and looked for a file viewer for the 3D stereo image it created, and found it at  Among other options, it creates a file with left and right images of the picture that you can view using the "crossed eyes" technique.

Click on the picture to put it into the "picture viewer".  Put your head about a foot from the image, and cross your eyes, until the central image merges.  You should see this in three dimensions.  Notice, that there is a little problem with Red, who moved his head between the two exposures, first gazing with love at Joel, and then becoming bored and looking off.

It has options to make the color version of 3D, that you need red/blue glasses to view.  Not having any, I didn't try...

Fall Falls at the Beach

Technically speaking, Fall arrived at 10:49 EDT today, and this walk was finished by then, but what the heck, let's call it Fall anyway, and count this as the first beach post of Fall 2012.  And a very nice day it was too, in the low 70's, breezy, from the west (hence no waves), and absolutely cloudless.
Georgia excused herself today, so it was just me and Skye and Joel and Red.  My new camera alleges that it will make 3D pictures, and I tried it, and it made this jpg and a file labeled MPO, which I understand I can view with 3D glasses, if I get some software.  Not today.

A Green Heron (Butorides virescens) which took offense to us walking on the beach, and flew up to the cliff and gave us the hairy eyeball before flying off.  These birds rarely use the beach, but we often see them in the rocks on the jetties or harbor.

Skye was particularly full of piss and vinegar today, and got into deep water a couple of times by accident.  Usually, she's pretty careful about deep water (if a working husky has to swim, it's generally a bad thing), but today she seemed to throw caution to the wind.
A sandpiper of some kind, a Least Sandpiper if the yellow legs are diagnostic.

Incidentally, the Ospreys are still here, I saw at least one in the distance.
The only butterfly of note today, a Painted Lady.  There was also a single beat up specimen of the Spicebush Butterfly, but, the picture was interfered with by an ugly leaf.
A family having their professional take a series of family pictures.  If only they'd known I'd do it for free.