My nephew, John, and two of his friends from Babson used our kitchen this evening to prepare a traditional Russian dinner. The rest of us were the beneficiaries of this endeavor. The meal, several hours in the making, included beef stroganoff and borscht followed by a Russian cake and cookies. The extent of my involvement was the construction of a meat tenderizer (pictured above) after I refused to offer up one of my normal hammers for the job. Jeanine was consulted often but left all of the work to the kids.
Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill posted an image of a dress on Tumblr with the question, “guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Given the virtual explosion of interest that resulted (answer is blue and black, BTW), I thought I would share this famous illustration designed to demonstrate how easily the the human visual system can be fooled. Which is darker? Square A or square B. The answer is that they are both the same color and brightness. Cut two holes in a piece of paper so you can compare the two squares while obscuring the background if you do not believe me.
I received this photo from good friend and mentor Bill Warner, founder of Avid Technology. It was taken at the studios of Boston PBS TV station WGBH with their Senior Director of Production Technology on the right. WGBH-TV produces more than two-thirds of the nationally distributed programs broadcast by PBS including Nova, Frontline, Masterpiece, American Experience, The Victory Garden and This Old House. On a tour of the facility he noticed they were using an ISIS storage server that was my signature project during my Avid days (see flash back below). The WGBH installation can store 1.3 petabytes of information (1 petabyte = 1 million gigabytes = 1 quadrillion bytes). It is extremely satisfying to know that so much of the TV I enjoy is being produced with the aid of products I helped to bring to market.
It has never been clear to me if the HVAC subcontractors who installed the system in our home understood the basic concept of a feedback loop. We have a four zone heating system (first floor, basement, master bedroom, rest of the second floor). The thermostat for the second floor was located in the upstairs hallway where it was influenced by air coming up the open foyer from the first floor rather than the second floor air in the bedrooms (whose doors remain closed for most of the day). Today I moved the second floor thermostat into Maya’s bedroom where it will ensure a closed feedback loop for at least one of the rooms. I believe the other bedrooms will be more comfortable as well.
In 1967, at age four, Jeanine pressed her cute little hands into a plaster of Paris mixture. After it hardened, she applied silver paint to create the keepsake shown here. Jeanine suggested that I photograph it before it got relegated to the attic or basement storage. Amazing that something so fragile has survived for 48 years without damage.
This session of my indoor soccer session came to a close this evening with playoffs. We won our first match by a score of 2-1 but were eliminated in the next round by a score of 2-4. I really need to improve my conditioning and plan to do so before the spring outdoor season begins. It gets harder each year to remain competitive. Playing in an over 40 league with many opponents 16 years my junior does not make the challenge any easier.
Jeanine braved the frigid temperatures for a cross country ski outing today. She started with her friend Eliza but had to return home for warmer gloves. She continued solo across the field behind our house. Nala has taken immediate advantage of the path she created to venture further from the house than was possible for her before. I drove into Boston to meet with a lawyer who seems like a perfect fit to assist me with the legal details of setting up a new company, one of the options I am exploring at the moment. Maya coaxed me into joining her for a workout at the Thoreau Club and I am hoping this is something we can do more of in the future.
My niece Rachel is in town to visit Babson, one of the colleges she is considering, for a leadership conference. Quite the fashionista she looked the part of a CEO as she left the house for the overnight program.
I spent a good portion of the day clearing an ice damn on the roof which formed while we were away and has resulted in some damage to the ceilings of our master bathroom and breakfast nook. After removing large chunks of ice with a pry bar, I used a butane torch to melt a valley through the remaining ice so that melting snow would have a channel of evacuation.
Maya continues to investigate new techniques for rendering photos of her undesirable for publishing on this blog. It is a pointless exercise that has served only to generate a catalog of very funny images. Sleeping over this evening are my sister Alissa and her daughter Rachel (on the right) as well as Maya’s best friend Sarinnagh. While Jeanine and I were in New Orleans, Maya was visiting Nicolai at college in Colorado Springs. By all accounts she had a great time and was well protected (Maya can be quite a cutie when her hand in not plastered to her face) by her brother while socializing on campus.
For the second day in a row we indulged in beignets at the Cafe Beignet and are now prepared to declare them better than those of the world renowned Cafe du Monde. Heresy some will say, but we stand by our findings. The flight back to Boston was uneventful but we were not happy when our car service failed to meet us on arrival. The car had become stuck in the snow, a vivid reminder that we were back in New England. Fortunately, we bumped into friends returning from Mexico and they were able to drive us home.
We had a delicious brunch at The Court of the Two Sisters while enjoying the music of a live jazz trio. A great way to start a day, the remainder of which would be spent at the Hyatt Regency working a trade show booth for the benefit of the American Amputee Soccer Association. Prior attempts to recruit players to the sport have been hit or miss. This year we decided to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP) hoping these professionals could help us get the word out to top athletes who might be interested. Our “booth” was a small table which we used to display a banner, several action photos and a continuous loop video of the game being played. This strategy was a huge success. Not only did we distribute a thousand contact cards to prosthetists for display at their offices, we identified several promising prospects who were in attendance at the show. We shared the work with Eric Lamberg, head coach of the US National Team which allowed me time to venture from the booth to speak with potential sponsors.
Exhausted from all the standing and talking, we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at Pascal’s Manale followed by drinks in the French Quarter at a jazz club.
The first order of business this morning was a visit to Cafe du Monde to sample their world famous beignets. The bar was set very high. Next, it was off to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, first for a short hike and then for a boat tour of the bayou (swamp). Spotting a bald eagle before even setting a foot outside the car was a good omen for the encounters with wildlife that would follow.
This armadillo, also known as a Texas speed bump, was our first sighting on the bayou.
Next an array of turtles and numerous birds (Snowy Egret, White Ibis, Blue Heron).
We did not see any of the five venomous snakes that are native to the bayou but we did find several alligators. The one pictured here is of a mother in her den with one of her babies. Only the tip of her mouth is visible but an interesting perspective none the less.
Alligators in Louisiana can grow to 14 feet in length but the largest we encountered were about half that. It does most of its hunting in the water, swallowing small prey whole and drowning larger prey by dragging it underwater. They have up to 80 teeth which are replaced when they wear down. Over an alligators lifetime, it may go through 2,000-3,000 teeth.
Not expecting to find any fine dining near the bayou, we were quite surprised to enjoy one of our best meals at the Restaurant des Families just outside the park.
Jeanine and I flew to New Orleans this morning for Mardis Gras. We arrived in time to catch two parades. The first was a bust. A vanilla flavored, family oriented affair with floats, marching bands, and fire trucks, something you might see anywhere in the country. The second was a jackpot. Dancers wearing huge feather clad costumes rhythmically moving and singing to the pulsating beat of their traveling percussion ensembles. Technically, the parade had ended but participants spilled over into side streets with no apparent intention of ending the party. The costumes were so intricate and large that it was often hard to find the human faces of the occupants. The New Orleans Police Department was out in force to redirect traffic around the numerous parades happening today.
We spent the late afternoon driving around the lower ninth ward where much of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina remains readily apparent. Spared by the storm were the two Doullut Steamboat Houses. In 1905, Paul Doullut, a steamboat captain, designed and constructed a home facing the Mississippi River. The captain wanted a home reminiscent of the steamboats he and his wife, who was, also, a steamboat captain, guided up and down the river. In 1913, he had a second, identical home built a few hundred yards from his for his son.
We finished the day in the French Quarter which eventually turned into a sea of inebriated and wildly costumed revelers.
By my count there are 15 visible workers with 2 snow blowers removing snow from the roof of the riding arena across the street from our home. I suspect there are an equal number working on the back side. Record snowfall in the past few weeks has collapsed many a structure and it is very common to see folks clearing their roofs. Fortunately, our roof is both steep and covered in slate which prevents large buildups.
Another 16 inches of snow fell in Concord this weekend bringing the total to a record 90 inches in the last 23 days. The height of snow on our bedroom balcony gives a good sense of the resulting accumulation. At some point, even those who do not believe in climate change science will have to acknowledge the distinct increase in severe weather events all over the planet. After the snow subsided, high winds and frigid temperatures made this a day to stay indoors. For the first time I can remember since I have known her, Jeanine remained in her pajamas all day long. Interestingly, she had a most productive day, organizing and downsizing her massive collection of cookbooks, china, and teapots. We enjoyed a nice visit with both boys this evening. Nico has started a teaching internship and is thinking about pledging the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Kyle has adjusted to his new living quarters, is doing very well academically, and seems more organized than usual. Maya will be visiting Nico in Colorado next week, but after hearing about Kyle’s attempt at a Valentine’s Day getaway with his new girlfriend, I am wondering if we should send our little cupid his way instead.
Earlier this week Maya called into question the romantic integrity of “WBUR roses,” a Valentine’s day gift which Jeanine has received for several years now. For those outside the Boston area, WBUR is our local PBS affiliate. A portion of the price paid for the roses is used to support the radio station. To my way of thinking, the roses are a double gift since Jeanine and I both have our radios locked on WBUR and frequently discuss stories we have heard while driving. Not to let Maya’s accusation go unchallenged, I did not send roses this year but instead will be taking Jeanine to New Orleans for Mardis Gras next week. It is not clear whether this gesture will pass muster with Maya since I will also be attending a conference while there. To be sure, I also took Jeanine out for a romantic lunch and later we watched “When Harry Met Sally,” a movie we saw together during the early days of our courtship.