Sigma Sale

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A long time favorite lens of mine will go up on Craig’s List for sale later today.  I am replacing it with an updated version which was just released.  Pictured below is a favorite photo made with this lens featuring Kyle and two of his friends from high school.

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World Cup

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Signed by Andres Iniesta, this is the invitation Nico received to attend the World Cup in Brazil. We will plan a vacation day on either side of the quarter-final match, scheduled for July 4th, to enjoy the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Nico has also secured a corporate speaking engagement for Western Union. They are flying him to Italy for the conference and have invited him to join them for the Europa League Finals in Turin.

Roasted Cutie

wpid13276-2014-04-28-070200-009.jpgMaya got a bit of a sunburn on our last day in Barcelona.  She and Jeanine spent most of the day on an open air tour bus seeing the sights while Nico and I were occupied with his Powerade media event.  Both Maya and Kyle produced exceptional grades this semester and we are very proud of their academic accomplishments. Meanwhile, Nico has accepted an interview with the BBC for their Outlook show which will be taped at their local studio in Boston next week.

 

Pitch Problems

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Maya and I were both back on the soccer pitch today. With no subs, Maya played a full 90 minutes. Her team managed a 0-0 tie against Nedham which made constant use of their 8 subs. She looked much stronger than last season. Even though she was tired, Maya had some very strong shots on goal, did a great job of distribution, showed a new propensity for heading the ball and showed some strong moves that reminded me of Kyle’s.

By contrast, I played one of the worst games I can remember. My legs felt like jello and my touch was spastic. We suffered our first defeat of the season 0-2 even though we dominated second half play. Adding injury to insult, I hyper extended my ankle while taking a shot and it feels like this will cost me a match or two on the sidelines.

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Post Processing

 

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2014-04-20 124753 055It rained all day which gave me a good excuse to process all the photos and videos I took while in Spain. Of the 2000 images I made, I have down selected to a mere 500. By next week I hope to further reduce that number by half. I find that with time I can be more objective about which photos are worth keeping. Even though storage is cheap, the time spent looking through them all again at some point in the future is not. Here are a few that did not make my earlier posts.

BCN to BOS via JFK

The bulk of the day was spent flying from Barcelona back to Boston arriving late in the evening. Although we really enjoyed our vacation in Spain it was nice to be back home again.

Here is a video taken yesterday of Nico training with Andres Iniesta.

Andres Iniesta

2014-04-24 171145 704For weeks now, Nicolai has been looking forward to meeting Andres Iniesta, the world famous Spanish midfielder who plays for F.C. Barcelona and the Spanish National team. Iniesta is the headliner in the Powerade TV commercial in which Nico also appears.  The TV adds and related media campaign were launched today and Nico is here to film some additional footage and to do a couple of media interviews. Nico tried to get Iniesta to play him on an extra set of crutches while holding one leg up (leveling the playing field, so to speak). Andres said he was superstitious and did not want to tempt fate. He was entirely gracious about everything and it was apparent to me as I photographed and filmed him playing with Nico that he is a genuinely kind and good man, something I doubt is true of most multi-million dollar athletes. The session culminated when Iniesta invited Nico and a guest on an all expense paid trip to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, compliments of the Coca Cola company.

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With our last night in Spain upon us, Jeanine decided we were going to celebrate with a fine meal at a truly authentic regional restaurant. She selected Bilbao, a more perfect choice would be hard to imagine. The food was exquisite and the service was exceptional. A fitting end to a truly wonderful vacation.

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Sant Jordi

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Our first full day in Barcelona coincides with the Sant Jordi (Saint George) Festival. Although it is not a public holiday, his saint’s day (April 23) seems to bring out everyone for the celebration. Tradition dictates a rose for her and a book for him on this day for lovers. La Rambla, our destination this morning, seems to be the epicenter for booksellers and flower vendors drawing thousands upon thousands of visitors. We navigate the throngs until we reach La Boqueria. This amazing market has vendors selling every type of food imaginable with a degree of specialization that is unknown in the US. The slide show below is a small sampling of what can be found.

After a brief snack, Nicolai left by taxi for a video production studio to make an audition tape for a TV series in the US. More on this later, should he get a call back. Meanwhile, Jeanine, Maya, and I walk to the Barcelona Cathedral. Maya opts to watch the street performers gathered in front while Jeanine and I take the full tour.

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After completing the tour we gathered up Nicolai and drove to Park Güell, a garden complex with architectural elements situated on the hill of El Carmel and offering panoramic views of the city of Barcelona. It was designed by Gaudí and built in the years 1900 to 1914 and is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudí”.

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For dinner, Nico and I joined the folks from Coca Cola who have sponsored our trip. We met at the Hotel Rey Juan, pictured below, where we met the whole team.

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Barcelona

2014-04-22 071918 368We rose with the sun this morning to get an early start for Barcelona, our body clocks beginning to adapt to the 6 hour time difference.  After checking into our hotel near Camp Nou,  the soccer stadium of F.C. Barcelona, we made a bee line for the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.  This Roman Catholic Church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is one of the most unusual churches I have ever seen. I agree with the characterization of the architecture by Time Magazine as “sensual, spiritual, whimsical, and exuberant.” Less than 25% complete at the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, and subsequently damaged during the Spanish Civil War, the project is not expected to be completed for at least another decade. Nicolai and Maya made a pact to return to see it when it is finished.

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Beach Day

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Our day started and ended on the beach.  Although the water is far too cold to swim in for all but my sister-in-law Marie and her children, the setting was beautiful.  Jeanine and I enjoyed a brief walk in the adjacent nature preserve while the kids fooled around and napped.

2014-04-21 132237 284 During the afternoon we returned to the city for more sightseeing and lunch before reconnecting with Aida and her family for an excursion to the port of Valencia.  There we walked along the promenade for several miles. Nico juggled a soccer ball most of the way to tune up his touch.

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The day ended with another extraordinary meal prepared by Aida and Andres. Their hospitality throughout our visit has made our visit to Valencia one of the most memorable of any vacation. We hope they will come to Boston one day so that we may reciprocate their kindness.

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Valencian Wonders

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The City of Arts and Sciences, an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex, is situated at the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia, which was drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. Designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the project underwent the first stages of construction in July 1996 and the finished “city,” including four uniquely different buildings, was inaugurated in 1998.  When we encountered the plastic bubbles shown below I was unable to convince anyone else to join me in the fun. Standing up is MUCH harder than it looks and I was very tired when my ten-minute time allotment was up.

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After our morning outing we returned to Aida’s apartment where we met her three sons before enjoying the most amazing chicken paellas.  The dish originated in this region and one could not help but feel we were sampling the most authentic interpretation.  For me it was the best food of the entire vacation.

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After lunch we toured the old city on foot. Pictured below is a chapel within the Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia.  Christian historians all over the world declare that all their evidence points to the Valencian Chalice, on display here, as the most likely candidate for being the authentic cup used at the Last Supper.

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The architecture throughout the city is breath taking. There is grandeur around every corner and one could spend days taking it all in.  The adults enjoyed a fine dinner at a restaurant specializing in mussels while the kids went out on the town with their second cousins.

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Visiting Valencia

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Our connecting flight through London arrived Barcelona by midday. I rented a nice, if somewhat oversized for Spanish streets and parking spaces, BMW 5 series. All but the driver napped during our 3 hour drive to Valencia where my cousin Aida resides with her husband Andres and their three sons. Although travel weary, we were all in the mood to get out and do some walking. We briefly toured the downtown area before settling down to an alfresco tapas dinner at the customary hour of 9pm.

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My uncle Jimmy has a beautiful summer residence overlooking the Mediterranean which he generously offered to our family for the duration of our stay in Valencia. Just 15 minutes from the city, a more perfect living space we could not have wished for.

 

Barcelona Bound

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The family, minus Kyle, is headed for Barcelona today for a combination family vacation and media event for Nicolai in conjunction with the work he has been doing with the Coca Cola company. To pass the time as we waited for our flight to board, Nico teaches Maya how to juggle a hackey sack. She is also pressed into sewing service when repairs on the tiny ball are required.

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In and Out

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We welcomed a new member of the iRobot leadership team to the company as we said goodbye to another. The former over dinner at Strega Prime and the later over lunch at the office. Beyond the dieting challenges created by these celebrations it is both an exciting and sad time. It is great to infuse the company with new energy and talent but it is hard to say goodbye to a colleague you have fought in the trenches with for years.

Gold Medal

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If nocturnal teeth grinding to the point of fracture were an Olympic sport, I would be a champion  This morning I had the gold crown pictured here added to my collection.  When compressed air was used to dry the underlying tooth before applying adhesive, I experienced a level of pain not know to me in all my life.  The dentist was surprised by my reaction but said it was not uncommon to have a hyper sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. If the 3 second blast of air had gone on for another second, I swear I would have lost consciousness.

Note to Children:  Consistent use of a night guard will prevent subsequent misery if you suffer from bruxism (the official term).

Building Relationships

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I enjoyed dinner with my new boss, Paolo (pictured on the right), and several colleagues (not all pictured) at Papa Razzi’s this evening. Such gatherings help to create strong working and personal relationships, especially important given that Paolo is based in Pasadena.