Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Lorien and I are slowly getting ready to head into the city for New Year's Eve, precise plans not entirely known at this time. I just wanted to take a minute to wish anyone reading this a Happy New Year, and share what I just snapped of the sun setting (I know, I'm a sucker for sunsets) over Rose Street. If you look carefully in the distance, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, which is visible during the winter when the trees have less cover.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winter playground

Tahoe was fun, we did a little bit of various winter activities. Some snowboarding, some ice skating, some cross country skiing. Every time I go to the mountains in the winter after not having been there in a while it makes me long for real seasons again, especially winter. But maybe that's just easy for me to say, since out here winter becomes this playground that you go to, and not something that you have to endure day after day. Maybe I'd be singing a different tune if I had to deal with a real winter again after having acclimated so much to the Bay Area. Maybe not.

We didn't take a real camera with us, but there were some incredible sights. Coming down from Donner Pass along the backroads, just around sunset, with the full moon rising, was a pretty spectacular sight. And there was this eerie fog swirling above the Donner Lake. This picture from Lorien's phone doesn't quite do it justice, but it's all that I've got.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ken says, "Sewing is hard"

Or at least that's how it felt doing a stupid little repair on my GoreTex pants. I guess like anything it gets easier if you do it repeatedly, but it's usually a long time between any sewing I do. I still can't get over that Matt made his own suit for SantaCon -- check out the lower right corner in this picture. I don't think I'm quite up for that.

But my pants are now fixed, which is good now that the rainy season is hopefully finally upon us for real. They're handy for biking to work; and Lorien and I are planning to head to Tahoe for Christmas for some snowboarding, and I use them for that too. Hence the late night sewing project.

Monday, December 17, 2007

SantaCon 2007

Santa's little helper is too lazy to post too many pictures repeatedly, so if you want to see more, go to our web site.

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Kitty progress, measured in small steps

While Selena The Cat may be a mysterious figure that lurks in the shadows,

she has been spotted actually eating side by side with Dirk. Or should I say Mr. Dirk, as he has been known to be called.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cocktail hour

Maybe I'd post more frequent random tidbits of our life if I didn't always feel compelled to also post pictures, so here goes...

We just finished up our December cocktail hour. We started having cocktail hours a while back -- with the combination of planning a wedding and recovering from our fire, we were worried it might be the only way we could see our friends, having them come over to us. We've continued the tradition, and have semi-regular events (nearly) every month. Some are bigger, some are smaller, it's kind of random.

John and Heather came over, and just them, so I guess it was our smallest one yet. Although I think we maybe had one other small one some time ago where just Neal and Genevieve came over.

We had mulled wine (which turned out better than last year), latkes, some of our latest experiment in vodka infusions (with chai spices -- actually, pretty much the same spices as in the mulled wine), and some Christmas beers. For any beer afficionados out there, I heartily recommend Allagash Grand Cru, a spiced Belgian style ale from Portland, Maine. Of course, with such a small turnout, we have plenty of Christmas beers left to enjoy for the rest of the season. So stop on by and help us if you're reading this locally! (Although I suspect that most of our readership is from farther away...)

And congratulations to John and Heather who are expecting a baby!

Happy holidays,
- Rich

Monday, December 03, 2007

more Israel photos

Not more of mine, that is, but George Fono has also posted his online (actually, he beat me to it), so I might as well put in a plug for him at

I never really saw it as any kind of competition, but I think he may have. I managed to edit our 700-800 (I forget now) originals down to about 300. I don't know if George has 500 because he took so many more, or maybe Lorien was more convincing in getting me to edit down than Judy was.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Home for Thanksgiving

While it was a bit difficult getting on a plane again so soon after returning from the Middle East, and dealing with the holiday traffic, I'm very glad that we were able to head to my parents' house in Broomall for Thanksgiving. Last year we had stayed in California.

The best part of the trip may owe global warming a debt of gratitude. We perpetually talk of planning a fall colors trip some year (starting up north in Canada and working our way down to Philadelphia as the colors change), but we have yet to do it, so it had really been 13 years since I had truly experienced fall colors. Philadelphia (and the rest of the Northeast, I gather) has had an unusually warm fall this year, delaying the usual cycle. By Thanksgiving, the trees around Philadelphia are usually pretty much bare. Not so this year.

My excitement gave me the enthusiasm to rake leaves. Twice. And at a time when I should have been jet lagged (since it was something like 4:30 AM California time), I somehow got the inspiration on Thanksgiving to go for an early morning walk around the neighborhood and take pictures, when the morning dew was still out.

Steve and Laura drove from New Jersey with Matthew and David, and Larry and Sheryl drove from Indiana. So a little bit smaller than our last Thanksgiving home (when George and Judy came down from Toronto, and Elaine and Bill came down from New York), but a fairly big crowd nonetheless. I helped out with the cooking, contributing butternut squash soup, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce. (I learned my lesson last year not to try to bud my way into my Mom's well established turkey preparation protocol.) Oh yeah, we also roasted some chestnuts.

While we didn't end up getting the time to head to our favorite beer bar in Philly, or try out a new one, we did manage to find the time see a local band that we like, Lotus. The venue, the World Cafe Live, was a pretty nice place. Also fairly new, it certainly didn't exist back when I lived in Broomall.

We also went with the kids to see Enchanted. I was pretty impressed; it was one of the better Disney movies that I've seen in a while.

And finally, in a stunning turn of events, I haven't taken forever to put our pictures online! You can find the full album at

Pictures. FINALLY!

I'm sorry it's taken so long, but I have finally gone through and edited and organized and captioned our pictures from our trip to Israel and Egypt. Part of the long time was that I decided I wasn't entirely happy with existing tools for web publishing of photo albums, so I ended up writing my own from scratch. But now that it's all done, it ought to hopefully be much easier in the future.

So far all that's up there is the pictures from our Middle East trip, but I sincerely hope to in the not too distant future start back publishing the hundreds of photos that we've accumulated over the past few years.

The pictures themselves can be found at

We will continue to use this blog for more day to day commentary on anything that we feel like saying, which hopefully won't just be limited to times when we're traveling.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Jerusalem

Yes, we're back home but our loyal readership deserves more photos, so Rich and I will keep posting some selections in chronological order.

Here's a Jerusalem street (there are no thoroughfares in the old city - all the streets are like this), my mother and me in front of the Dome, a view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, and a view of olives on the Mount of Olives. Actually, the olive tree is in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was supposed to have been arrested. Carbon dating says the trees are over 2000 years old, so presumably they knew Jesus personally.
Before I post more pictures, I wanted to quickly explain the ones from the last pictured post. The top two are of the Dome on the Rock, where Mohammed was supposed to have dreamed that he ascended to heaven, also, the site of the erstwhile 2 Jewish Temples, and the holiest site in Judaism. They're excavating underneath the site, and we (Rich, my parents and I) took a tour of the excavated tunnels with Ziggy and Siggy Fromm and their daughters Hadass and Daphne (bottom picture). The other pictures are of the Wailing Wall, the retaining wall of the Temple, and the only part remaining above ground. The metal door is at the Kabbalah Yeshiva where Siggy's cousin used to work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

3 countries in 2 days

Went to Petra in Jordan yesterday for a day trip. Amazing. Go there.

About to return our rental car and take a taxi to the Egypt border to head to the Sinai. Hopefully in between diving we'll have a little chance to relax a bit and slow down the pace and do some more serious blogging and picture posting too.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Busy and no Internet

Sorry for the delay in blogging to any of our loyal readership. We've been from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Haifa (and Akko and Ceaserea), the Dead Sea, Masada, back to Lachish, and now Mitzpe Ramon, and this is the first time we've had any Internet access since Tel Aviv.

I'll fill in more details later, but this terminal really sucks and the clock is ticking and we can't upload photos anyway, and others are waiting. But the bottom line is we're alive and well and having fun.

Pictures to come in the future. We promise.

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

still jerusalem

rock, mosque, tunnels, wall, family.
'nuff said.
for now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jerusalem by day

Our first full day in Jerusalem, it was a pretty busy one.

Woke up early in the morning (I'm still quite not used to Israel time -- although they're kind of faking it anyway, since they're on the same timezone as Europe instead of the timezone of the surrounding countries, so sunrise and sunset are kind of ridiculously early) to the sounds of church bells ringing (we're in the Christian quarter). Walked along the Rampart's Walk, which takes you on (most of) the perimeter of the walls surrounding the Old City. In decidingly uncharacteristic fashion for us, we actually showed up a little bit before it even opened. So we were the first ones in and pretty much felt like we had the whole wall to ourselves, at least for the Northern section. (There are two distinct sections, we walked the Southern section later in the day).

Wandered around the Muslim quarter in the late afternoon, bought a bit of produce at a market (and had some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice -- it's pretty intense), then headed in search of lunch, where we found the best hummus in the world. Okay, that might be hyperbole, but we both genuinely think it's the best we've ever had. Try the I Kermawi restaurant just a few shops north of the Damascus gate, on the east side of Nablus Rd. just north of the intersection with Sultan Suleyman St.

Later in the day we went to the City of David, which is the original site of Jerusalem, circa thousands of years ago. (The walls of the current "old" city are "only" about 450-500 years old.) The coolest thing to see here is Hezekiah's tunnel. It's a 500 meter long underground tunnel used to bring water from a spring that was outside of the city into the city, to prevent invaders from cutting off the city's water supply during a seige. It's totally dark, and water still flows through it. Oh yeah, and it's about 2700 years old. It just boggles my mind how old stuff is here. Details about the tunnel are known because an inscription about its construction was carved into the stone. Although the actual inscription is no longer there -- it was carted off by either the Turks or the Brits (I forget which) when they controlled Palestine.

If you've ever read The Source, by James Michener, I'm pretty sure the water tunnel there was based on this. Although his one didn't have a group of screaming Israeli schoolkids right behind you in the tunnels. I was really tempted to shout "Shekhet bevakasha" -- I suppose it may have been the most practical use of anything that I learned in 5 years of Hebrew school ("Me is who, who is he, he is she, and dog is fish" hasn't come in that handy all too often) -- but I didn't quite have the nerve.

There was some other stuff, but those were the highlights. And once again it feels way late and I'm way tired from still being jet lagged -- I hope I'm not sounding too rambling and cracked out in these late night posts.

More of Jerusalem tomorrow, and then on Friday we're off to Tel Aviv, provided that we manage to get out of the city before everything shuts down for Shabbat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jerusalem by night

We spent the early part of the day in and around Lachish, touring some nearby caves. Beit Guvron, perhaps? It's late, I'm tired, and I may have the name wrong. Generally man made caves, different ones used for various purposes including water cisterns, burial tombs, and raising pigeons.

Then we took the bus from Kiryat Gat to Jerusalem. One word of advice -- taking full backpacks on a crowded local public bus is pretty stupid. We should've just taken a cab.

We're staying in the old city just inside the Jaffa gate. It's magnificent here. We met up with Lorien's parents for dinner. We were pretty tired and considering heading straight to bed, but we couldn't resist a little peek around the old city first. Wow. It's pretty spectacular at night. Most shops and restaurants are closed, and the streets are fairly empty. And while I'm sure I'll appreciate the hustle and bustle of the daytime, the beauty of the streets at night is something that I'm certainly glad we chose to experience. And it's all so compact. Without realizing it, we had made it all the way to the Western Wall.

And the cats come out to roam at night. Another bonus.

Way too tired now to write much more, but I felt like I just had to post a few of these pictures.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Around the world in 30 hours

After a long day (days?) of travel, we're now in Israel. I think it was something like 30 hours from the time we left our house in Berkeley until we arrived at my cousin Ziggy's house in Lachish. Things went reasonably smoothly -- I think the hardest thing I've encountered so far is trying to post some pictures to this blog using IE5 in Hebrew, and finding no way other than installing GIMP to manipulate the pictures to post them here. But after all of that I'm pretty tired, so I'll try to keep this brief.

With an 8 hour or so layover, we managed to have a reasonably full afternoon in Paris. We went to Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame, roamed around the streets and sampled some French food, and wandered outside of the Louvre (way too little time to head inside), which is where this nifty picture comes from.
In Lachish we've spent the day visiting with family and touring around the moshav. Even though it's past most of the harvest and the grapes may not allegedly be at their finest, I think my memories from my trip back in 1979 have indeed been fulfilled. The grapes here are great.

Anyway, that's about it for now. We're off to Jerusalem tomorrow, then on to Tel Aviv, and from there we'll see.
We'll try to keep posting when we have the chance and keep anyone who might be reading this informed about our travels.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

we're finally home ...

... and tired, but after finishing carrying boxes i just set up the internet and wanted to test it, hence this small post.

we have to go back tomorrow to our temporary apartment to do a little cleaning (and fetch the few final plants that haven't yet made their way back), but other than that, we're moved back. well, except for the oodles of boxes stacked all over the place. i guess it while be a little while before we're fully settled in again, but it will be nice to sleep in our own bed again.

oh yeah, and the repairs are almost almost almost done. i really want to be able to call everything absolutely completely done, but realistically, by the time i deal with the final details with the contractor and the insurance company and the bank and all of the associated bureaucracy and paperwork, it could easily be another month before all of the hassles are totally behind me.

off to bed, have to get up early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Still sick, but heading home soon

Unfortunately, Lorien and I are still both a little bit sick, so the Tahoe plans got fully canceled. Hopefully next weekend. I suppose I'd be more upset if there were actually decent snow this season, but the continuous sun day after day doesn't seem to understand that this is supposed to be the rainy season.

So we spent most of this weekend sitting around watching movies and eating comfort food. Unfortunately we didn't grab quite enought chicken soup from the freezer before the floors were completed, so we had to actually go out and buy some yesterday. It was okay, but it doesn't have quite the same love as homemade. Tonite we went back to the house for some more, figuring the floors had cured enough that they were ready to be walked on.

Speaking of which, the floors are indeed done. To the first order everything is now done, although there are a couple of minor things left that hopefully ought to get taken care of tomorrow. So we still are on track to be back in the house sometime next week, hopefully next Monday at the absolute latest even if some things go wrong and get delayed.

I think we have finally solved the mystery of Dirk's skittishness heading outside. After being very hesitant to head outside for quite some time, last night I let him out briefly and he took off. I wasn't able to coax him back in before we went to bed, even with some food. So this morning I headed downstairs to see if he was by the door wanting to come in. Indeed, there was a cat by the back door, but it wasn't Dirk. When I went to open the door, the other cat took off to the neighbor's yard behind us. A short while later, I was able to summon Dirk's return. So I think this other cat has our backyard marked out as his territory, which makes Dirk a bit nervous. And when he does head out, I think he takes refuge in the yard of our neighbor to the side. Anyway, soon we'll be back home and he'll be able to roam familiar territory again, which ought to make him happy.

And us too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

sniff sniff

In a mildly unfortunate turn of events, Lorien and I have both managed to get a wee bit sick at the same time, for the first time ever. Well, not the first time ever getting sick, just together, that is. Well, unless you count our dual ear infections while on honeymoon.

Anyway, it's not too bad, and we're still hoping to make it to Tahoe this weekend if we feel better, as Lorien is eager to try out her new snowboarding equipment.

Lorien would like me to blame our collective colds on the cold spell we've been having here, which indeed has made things so cold that Dirk doesn't even want to go outside. And the California citrus growers aren't very happy, as you may have heard. I'm a bit more skeptical, on the whole "being cold doesn't give you a cold logic", but I suppose it does make you more susceptible to catching one.

Luckily we did manage to sneak into the house before the kitchen floor got finished to grab some chicken soup from the freezer. We've settled upon a policy of whenever we make chicken soup, to make oodles and oodles of it so that we have enough leftovers that we always have it "on tap" in the freezer just for such emergencies. Mmmmmm good......

Speaking of the floors, the repairs are progressing on schedule. Actually, from taking a peek at the house this evening, it looks like they might be totally done, but I'm not sure.

After the floors, there's still a couple of other minor things to get done, and a bunch of cleanup (refinishing the floors causes dust to go everywhere, which is why we had to move out), and then moving back. But, if all goes well, all of that will be done by the end of next week, and then we'll be back and done.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Empty Nest

Wow, it really has been a while since I've shared anything here. Sorry about that. I am happy to report that, after a very long time, we are finally reaching the end of the repairs to our house. For any of you counting, it has now been 14 months (exactly, I just realized) since our fire. I never imagined that this ordeal could possibly last so long. I'd always heard people complain about contractors, but kind of assumed that they were exaggerating with how bad it could be. Now I know better.

Shortly after the new year, we got everything packed up to vacate the house for the final repairs (mostly painting and refinishing the floors). Our original plan was to stay in some corporate hotel kind of place (but with small kitchenettes) in Emeryville (which is where I work), but when we stopped by to visit the place, it was a bit of a disappointment. We briefly considered another place that was a bit nicer (and about twice the money), but then decided that maybe we should just look around for a place that would make us a bit happier. We managed to find on craigslist a short-term rental on a 1 BR half of a duplex that's very close by to our actual house (only about 4-5 blocks away). It would be a bit cramped for the long term, but it's fine for the 3-4 weeks that we expect to be here.

Thankfully we had some other company to do the main work of packing up and moving most of our stuff into storage. But moving still was a bit of a pain. Partly because this company (like every other company we've dealt with) turned out to be a bit incompetent, and didn't really fully do the job that they're getting paid to do, so we ended up having to do a bunch of stuff ourselves anyway. And they didn't really have any way to take care of the growing collection of indoor plants that we have accumulated, so we ended up moving all of them to the new place, which was a bit of a delicate operation.

Even for a very short journey, Dirk doesn't like to travel, and he was a bit skittish at first in the new digs. He spent a lot of the first few days hanging out under the bed, but he has grown a bit more accustomed to his new surroundings and is now more relaxed. The backyard here is beautiful, with a number of redwood trees, some of them quite mature, and Dirk likes the opportunity to wander outside. That is, when he's not intimidated by the bitter cold that we've been experiencing lately. (We've wrapped our small lime tree back at the house in christmas lights leftover from the wedding to try to protect it against the frost.)

The painting at the house was finished on Friday, and the refinishing of the floors is scheduled to start tomorrow morning. If all goes well, that will be done at the end of this coming week, and the following week will be devoted to cleaning up and moving back. And then we'll be done. I'm fully expecting things to go wrong, because they pretty much have given any opportunity to do so, but maybe just maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised and 2 weeks from now we'll be back in our house and can get on with our lives.

I do have tons more to say, trying to catch up on the past 4 months when I've been a bit negligent in my blogging, but both Lorien and I (she's working now) have to work tomorrow morning (corporate America doesn't seem to feel that the achievements of Dr. King are sufficiently worthy of a day off), so I should be turning in. More to come soon...