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Photo Friday: Pumpkin Patch

Posted by Ted on Nov 25, 2011 in Photography

We spent last Thanksgiving in our guest house in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Just NW of the moat, WaLai House was a great place to spend a few weeks as Liz took classes in Thai Massage and I biked around town and the countryside. Largely in our honor, the two proprietresses of WaLai, who enjoy any excuse to celebrate, decided to throw a Thanksgiving party. While biking around earlier in the day, I came across a restaurant that was reputed to have pumpkin pie. They were sold out.

When do you need them by?” the owner asked.  ”Can you wait 90 minutes?

So I parked myself down at a table with my notebook and laptop and caught up on journaling while she made two beautiful pumpkin pies. We fashioned a pie holding insert for the bicycle’s basket, and I rode back across town to WaLai. A couple of us went to the liquor store and the market to pick up more supplies, and in short order a party was started. Being a guest house near an international school of Thai massage, there were students from Russia, Bulgaria, Italy, South Africa, and Japan. The pumpkin pie was well appreciated.

Yesterday, we had a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner with good friends, just as wonderful.

This week’s Photo Friday is from a few years ago, during a motorcycle ride west of Boston to enjoy some Autumnal leaf peeping. We stopped at a small country market with fresh apple cider donuts.

(Related photos of New England autumn can be found here.)

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Photo Friday: Occupy Oakland Candlelight Vigil

Posted by Ted on Nov 18, 2011 in Causes, Photography, Politics

I’m not a full time occupier, but I do drop by the Camp a couple of times a week. After a leisurely ride around the lake last Thursday, I stopped by the corner I’d been scrubbing walls of the week before.

I could tell instantly that I had clearly just missed something big.

I hung back, secured my bike, and leaned against the railing of the 12th St BART stairs. The crowd was agitated. Someone was on the ground, surrounded by concerned people. Police broke out the yellow barrier tape and established an expanding perimeter – which my bike was now 10 feet inside of.

A few minutes later, ambulances and fire trucks arrived, a gurney was wheeled to the scene, and the injured person was taken away leaving a pile of evidence and blood behind. The cops maintained a peaceful blocking of the crime scene, and life at camp continued, albeit with many whispers. That someone was shot was the only thing people knew.

An hour or so later, the #OccupyOakland Twitter hashtag announced the sad news – Kayode Ola Foster was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital (the same hospital where Scott Olsen was taken).

Feeling once again moved to act, but not knowing how to help, I saw a couple of lit candles and had an idea. I looked up, saw a Walgreens across the street, and decided to buy some more candles. In the candle aisle, I met a young woman who had the same idea. Her name was Mimi, and she had brought her visiting-from-out-of-town mother to the Camp, and they too wanted to help. What they didn’t grab, I took the rest. Together we brought our armloads of candles bought from a 1% corporation, and gave to the 99%. We deposited boxes at several locations where candles were already being lit, and they were put to sombre use.

(Related articles of the Occupy Oakland shooting can be found
at SFGate, the LA Times, and CNN.)

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Photo Friday: Earthquake Pancake

Posted by Ted on Oct 21, 2011 in Events, Memories, Photography

San Francisco shook twice yesterday, and it wasn’t from a Giants game.

Almost 22 years to the day after the Loma Prieta earthquake rattled the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series, two quakes occurred yesterday along the Hayward Fault, with epicenters several miles below the UC Berkeley campus. At 2:41p, I felt the first one (4.0) from our lab in the SoMa district of San Francisco – a rumble that jiggled parked cars on the street. At 8:16p, I felt the second one (3.8) from our much closer second story apartment in Oakland and did a mental double-take as I truly felt the house shake for a moment. Of course, Facebook and Twitter had a flurry of status updates as people all across the Bay Area shared their experiences.

When my wife and I moved here from Boston three years ago, we traded snow for earthquakes. I personally don’t mind these relatively small earthquakes, in that by relieving fault pressure they delay “The Big One“. Even when that one hits, I have some faith that it may not be as bad as what I saw in Haiti last year.

The second floor becomes the first - Jacmel, Haiti (March 2010)

Here you can see a bit of earthquake physics you might not have realized – that on multi-story buildings, it is actually safer to be higher up. Notice that the first floor has been completely crushed and the third floor is comparatively unscathed. My faith that California will weather a large earthquake better is due primarily to the three following things that Haiti does not have;

  1. Higher quality building materials – What I saw in Haiti was cement that crumbled to the touch and woefully thin rebar
  2. Better building techniques – California in particular practices seismic design principles
  3. Adherence to building codes – Perhaps most important, for without this the other two become meaningless

This is not to say that Californians should be complacent, but our awareness and continued engineering advances should give us a decent chance of avoiding the devastation that I saw in Haiti.

(Related pictures of Haiti 2010 can be found here.)

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Photo Friday: Temple of Transition

Posted by Ted on Sep 9, 2011 in Burning Man, Photography

Many burners would agree that one of the most important structures at Burning Man is The Temple, often more so than the central effigy himself. A tradition started in 2000 by artist David Best, each year’s temple is a massively collaborative project with dozens of workers spending weeks to build it, giving thousands of participants an opportunity to write notes to loved ones in the spirit world, let go of emotional baggage, or simply express wishes and hopes for the future. Whereas the burning of “The Man” on Saturday night is a big party, the burning of “The Temple” on Sunday night is more solemn and contemplative. In 2003, the first temple I saw was Best’s “Temple of Honor“, a paper mâché structure that burned fast and bright.

I have connected with some temples more than others over the intervening years, but this year’s Temple of Transition was something truly special. I approached it the first time at night, expansive and elegant. As I neared, details revealed themselves in the masterful blending of multiple architecture styles and the intricately cut panels which framed the large open doorways. When close enough that the six towers loomed overhead, I could hear the soothing melody of the Gamelatron emanating from the central structure.

We spent a lot of time at the temple this year, honoring parents and pets passed away. Even more powerfully, we found clarity in what our near-future goals are, which will be a path of hard work and compromise, but one in which we anticipate great rewards. On Sunday night, we biked out to the temple, and watched through tears of awe and hope as it burned. Its very design – tall open cylinders with plenty of air circulation – created columns of fire that rose up into the heavens.

Afterwards, our group of a dozen or so campers biked to an area of the open playa, laid our sleeping bags on the ground, and enjoyed our last night, talking, wandering, and waking up to watch the sunrise together.

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Photo Friday: Man in the Mist

Posted by Ted on Aug 26, 2011 in Burning Man, Photography

Here in the Bay Area, the usual pre Burning Man buzz is palpable as fabric stores stock up on and sell out of fake fur, and REI sells out of Camelbaks. Almost 20,000 burners have now registered themselves with a new Facebook app called BurnerMap which (may) allow people to find their friends on playa easier.

As an experiment in being more self-sufficient, my wife and I have been prepping for the last couple of weeks, making delicious worldly foods such as Moroccan tajine, Italian baked beans, and Chinese congee and filling up our freezer. New clothes have been either made or picked up at a thrift store, and LED lights have been acquired and tested in order to decorate our bikes, our RV, and ourselves. Tomorrow we do our shopping for perishables and hit the road, spending the night in Reno before heading up Highway 447 in what will surely be an endless caravan of vehicles. I’m already looking forward to Indian tacos.

This photo from 2005 is one of my favorite images of “The Man”, standing on top of a fun house, a light wind picking up some playa along the way.

(Related pictures of Burning Man 2005 can be found here.)

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