Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hello, it's me, Brooklyn.
The adorable, cute and totally INNOCENT puppy.
Oh, did I mention INNOCENT?
Yes, how could an adorable, cute and INNOCENT puppy dog be guilty of anything?
Great, no need to see the rest of this blog.
Do not scroll down any further, OK?
Yeah, I didn't think so.

It's a lucky think that I happened upon this scene of toilet paper carnage that was perpetuated by my unbelievably messy humans.
Just look at this wreck that I have to clean up.
What? Oh, ignore the pillow (belonging to my messy mom) that has my tongue prints all over it. Yum, soft, fluffy, scented pillow with…hey wait a minute, you don't think that I did this?

No, not me!
What?, Ignore that trail of toys back to the scene of the crime, I mean the unmade messy bed.
Hey, this isn't looking too good for me, is it.
Let's see, toilet paper strewn about, a pillow somehow under my nose, a bed completely pulled apart (with a line of MY toys leading to it).
I demand a new trial.

Awww, let's just forget these little incidents, OK?
Now, if I can just figure out how to get the newspapers from the recycle bin, yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sweetwater Whetlands.
Tucson Arizona.
Amazingly, in the midst of the Sonoran Desert.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Part Two. From New York City to London to Paris.

I believe that the places where roots grow, are home. Whether or not you have lived there.
Tucson, home
New York City, home
London, where my roots grew well before me, home.
Paris, a beautiful city.
Reggio Calabria, where Monica's roots grew, home.

Tucson and NYC, see Part One.
Let's get on to Part Two. London and Paris.

Monica and I flew Virgin Atlantic. First Class. Starting with the Virgin Upper Class lounge.
It's incredible what a life time of never cashing in credit card points can buy you.
Now, the last time we flew First Class by choice was......NEVER! OK, we were upgraded a couple of times, but that was so long ago, there might have been a stewardess and props on that plane. Yes, of course I'm exaggerating. I'm not really that old, but Monica probably remembers the stewardess and props. 
I'm digging myself deeper, no?

Arriving in London the next day, we took the express train from Heathrow (I get it now, that's why it's called the Heathrow Express!) to Paddington Station. From there a quick hack ride to St. Pancras Station to pick up the Chunnel train to Paris.
All right, I admit that this was a VERY brief visit to London (3-4 hours) but I still felt very much at home. Thanks Mom and Dad!
And St. Pancras is really duded up for the Summer Olympics.
Saved from demolition in the early 1960s, it was renovated and now serves as the terminus for the Eurotrain to France. And it has a shopping mall. And a bus station. A really impressive structure.
Just wish it was heated.
Hey, I'm just saying.
Oh, and they had FOOD at St. Pancras.
Did I ever mention that Monica and I tend to travel on our stomachs?
A word about the Eurostar train to Paris.
It's quiet. Extremely quiet!
And smooth. Extremely smooth!
184 MPH!
Admittedly, I'm comparing it to the only high speed train that I've experienced.
Metro North.
Oh, that explains it.
On to Paris..
Our first meal in Paris.
Was it good? Frankly, I didn't give a rats ***.
It's Paris.
It's a street cafe.
You could watch Paris go by.
And yeah, it was really good. And I didn't even have to order the eggs runny (as though I could have mustered enough French to do that.) They just come that way!
Well, while we're speaking food.....
 Oh Leigh, look. I've spotted food! I believe that's bread! We weren't doing anything today, were we? 
And look, fake veggies. No, they look way too good to be real. Wait, they are real!
Fish! Fresh
 And Pierre actually called me back to take his picture. Oh, Pierre is the lobster.
No, just kidding. And the fish monger's name wasn't Pierre. That was my name in my French language High School class. I guess because Leigh just doesn't translate well into French.
 And Finally, my favorite meal in Paris.
A hole in the wall on Rue des Matres called Rose Bakery. The restaurant extended some distance into the rear of the narrow building. Florescent fixtures and plain drab walls. But you know you've got a sure thing when you see the beautifully prepared food up front and there's always a line to get in. 
I ordered this dish the old tried and true method. I looked around the restaurant and saw a gent eating something that looked delish. In my best French (not good, not good at all) I asked what he was eating. Mercifully, he took my crumpled menu and pointed to the dish. I'm still not exactly sure what it was, but if I could located it on that menu again, I'd surely order it tout de suite!

And that dear blogger friends, is the end of the first chapter on Paris.
More to come shortly. And then off to Italy where Monica met her roots, face to face!

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to photograph a Solar Eclipse
By Leigh Spigelman.

First, try to persuade the powers that be to schedule the eclipse at a convenient time.

Failing that, if hungry at say 90 minutes before the peak of the event, go out for dinner.

Now you've properly prepared yourself for the grueling task ahead. Namely, getting the heck home in time to photograph this important celestial coincidence.

OK, this is going to be easy. Just get the eclipse glasses on. Aim. Focus and fire!

Oh, the glasses.
Photo credit to Monica Spigelman
 You might as well have called these fashionista glasses the cones of darkness. It was so dark that Monica knocked the camera tripod out of position three times because she simply couldn't see it! And she was standing only 12" away. Really? Really!

As to aim, focus and fire? Fuggettaboutit! 
I had to feel my way to the camera and even then I had to feel my way to the view finder. 
Focusing? Forget auto focus. Had to be manual, which to me, on a good day, is to be avoided at any cost. Well, you do what you gotta do.

And what's with how good looking these cones of darkness make you look? I mean, you could buy a really cheapo pair of sunglasses and look cool. So what's with these?
Except of course Monica.
She looks GREAT.
Really? Really!

Ahhh, but the proof is in the pudding, or something like that. So here it was, finally. Aim, as soon as I found the camera. Focus, kind of. And FIRE!
Whooo boy. 
Maybe this wasn't as easy as I thought.
Probably might have helped to have gotten organized before hand. But hey, don't let a negative thought get in the way of a really fun and exciting journey of discovery. 
Well, I'd already shot the camera's load, so to speak, by shooting at 100 ISO at 1/8000 of a second and F25. That's it folks, The camera isn't going to get better than that.
Now I'm in high gear, searching for my gear. I figure two neutral density filters + a polarizing filter should give me the equivalent of 13 more f stops of darkness. That's alot!
OK, let's find those suckers. But not before I take off the cones of darkness. Geez, I could have killed myself with those things on.
So, here are the elements that I assembled. 
Rather an elegant solution. My chest starts to puff out. I put the cones of darkness back on.
Until I realize that this contraption, I mean elegant solution, isn't EVER going to screw on to my 70-200mm lens. The size is way to small.
OK, no worries. I'll hand hold the sucker in front of the lens! Maybe Ansel Adams wouldn't approve, but he's not here at the moment.

 Yes, that's me looking oh so suave, asking Monica to shout so that I know which way to turn for the photo.
Photo credit to Monica Spigelman

But does it work?
Well YES!
If you like crescent moon shots.
As it turned out, I did get some pretty good solar eclipse shots. 
They occurred well after the height of the eclipse, but I think they turned out pretty darn well.
Is there a moral to this post?
Have a wife who laughs with you.
And be don't be afraid to laugh at yourself, even if it's after the fact.
Be prepared, really!
Try your best and then react.
And a little good luck never hurts.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A new trip. A wonderful trip. Truth is of course, they all are.
But this one was special. 
From Tucson to New York City.
From New York City to London (ever so briefly.)
From London to Paris.
From Paris to Reggio Calabria.
From a beautiful home.
If you followed that, you know Monica and I well. If not, no worries, I'll explain.
But first, we start with New York City.
Our original home.
I'll take any excuse to stop over in NYC because I love to visit family, feel the energy in the streets , visit places I've never been, experience the food and see the seeming incongruity of it all lock together, and then move forward in unpredictable ways.

Oh wait. Did I mention food?

Up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for a wonderful lunch at Roberto's Restaurant, where the spoken Italian was as thick and chewy as the squid salads. Monica and I enjoyed Alan, Diane, Duyen and Brett's company and the food kept coming. After my first visit there, the verdict is in. I'd love to go back!

After lunch, more food. 
This time mostly to look at. 
 The Arthur Avenue Retail Market.
 Not exactly a super market, but the diversity of its offerings was staggering.

 Did you say you were looking for fruits and vegetables?

How about olives?
Black, brown, green?
Stored in nifty retro wooden casks?

Hand rolled?
In front of you?
Well, if you insist.

Music. And a full service restaurant.
Why not?

More food.
You like cheese and Italian sausage.
So who doesn't?

And what goes perfectly with all of this crazy good Italian food?
Sun dried tomatoes and peperoni.
OK, I'm not exactly sure if that's pepperoni on the right. Monica says it's hot peppers in oil.
But it looks colorful. What else could you ask for?
So then,

Finally we take a break from food.
Monica and I visited that mecca of Italian food super stores, Eately.
And we ate more.
Hey, this is my vacation. Tough.
I hope Monica forgives me, because Mario and Lidia are her faves. Truthfully, this wasn't the best meal we had. But it sure looked good.

Oh, did I mention we happened to visit over the Easter holiday.
Do you know what that means?
AnnMarie and Jim cooked a wonderful Easter feast, as always!
And to top off our NYC visit, we all got to celebrate Brett's birthday. 
And that cake was good.

Next blog post will take us to the other side.
No, no one died. Jeez!
I mean Europe.
See you soon, virtually.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tucson World RefugeeFest and Tucson Meet Yourself

Welcome to the Tucson World RefugeeFest.
Peter, Monica and Cyndy get set to represent Tucson Meet Yourself at the festival.
 Cultural Joy, above.
 Expressing herself in America.
 Why I'm glad to be here.
 László Veres from the Tucson Pops Orchestra, showing his musicians what American citizenship papers looks like.
 Art in motion.
 Downtown Tucson rolls out the welcome mat and it never looked so good.
Tucson Meet Yourselfers have fun taking a hi-tech photo.
Cyndy, Monica, Pat and Peter.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Just outside the small town of Ajo, Az. We were looking for Big Horned Sheep at sundown. What? You don't see the woolly creature? Neither did we. But if you look closely....
 Hopefully, by left clicking on the image, you can see the photo in a larger format.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Monica and I have taken several trips to New Mexico recently. 
The natives call their State the land of enchantment. 
Monica and I call it the land of dichotomy. 
And, it is charming. I'll explain....
New Mexico is steeped in the stories of off world visitors. It can ignite the imaginations of those who believe in UFOs and alien conspiracies. Just think of Area 51 and Roswell. Its' landscape often lends itself to what our imaginations would conjure up as an alien landscape.
Are the stories true?
I don't know.
But what is true is the important research being performed today at the Very Large Array (VLA) near Magdalena NM. Its' scale and presence are as alien as you can get, yet it carries the very human traits of curiosity and quest for knowledge into the "out there."
In a nutshell, the facility consists of roughly twenty seven of these dishes (minus the small earth creature we refer to as "Monica.")
The dishes are set on rail road tracks and the tracks are in the shape of a giant letter Y. Each of the three sets of tracks making up the Y has nine dishes on it, which allows the scientists to move the dishes as close to, or as far from each other as they need. This spacing enables the array to focus on very small or very large areas of the heavens. Each track is NINE miles long, which probably engendered the "Very" in the Very Large Array name.
So, exactly what is going on here? The dishes are listening for the light waves that originated in celestial bodies throughout the universe. Well, you say, big deal. A telescope can see light waves, right?

Only up to a point. The dishes are focused on the invisible (to us and optical telescopes, that is) radio wave part of the light spectrum. Light waves, like x rays and microwaves and infra red light, etc.. Because the dishes are able to detect this otherwise invisible information and because the dishes can penetrate solid (visible) objects, they can see further into the universe and thus much further back in time than normal telescopes. Almost back to the "big bang"(in astronomical time of course) which created the universe. This array is the largest array of several that are located around the globe and they are all connected to each other via computers. By all means, beam yourself into this facility if your visiting the area. I think you'll enjoy it as much as we did.

Up above, I used the word "dichotomy."
Because, while New Mexico thrusts your imagination into the future, its' towns and people pull you back into the present and past.
Looks like a picture out of a Disney interpretation of typical middle America. But it's not a representation at all. It's the Town Green in Socorro NM. And yes, those are real Girl Scouts holding the flags and real local politicians proudly thumping their breasts about a wonderful local accomplishment. Don't ask what it was, but I'm sure it must have been really good! 
And just as the VLA shoots you into the future, the San Miguel Mission near town center transports you back to the Seventeenth Century
This is by no means a wealthy town, but this Mission is clearly venerated and meticulously maintained by the locals. Built around 1615 to 1626 by the local Native Americans, under the direction of Franciscan Monks, extensive renovations were performed in 1816 (probably constructing over a portion of the older Mission.)
From the outside, it's a beautiful structure. 
And the inside has been just as lovingly restored. The purple gauze placed over all the interior religious relics (due to Lent) serves to soften and make the restored works appear even more dramatic than they normally would have.

And then, dichotomy strikes again.
As much as San Miguel Mission has been preserved, there are relics of the past in New Mexico that while celebrated, are left to rust!
In the dusty and funky (see the picture above) old town of Magdalena (between the VLA and Socorro) lies the long abandoned ghost town of Kelly.
Big and booming while the mine was producing its' load (of what I've no idea) and just as quickly abandoned when the mine shut down. These towns are celebrated but not maintained, but they're really interesting to find and explore (note: some are on private land and you must respect whatever local customs prevail. And be CAREFUL out there. You can get hurt. These ain't no amusement parks.
Kelly has a church that must have been used in the recent past, because it's not completely falling down.
Some of these towns are not easily gotten to. We wanted to go to the larger ghost town of Riley, about twenty to thirty miles north. But we were warned that we would have to ford a stream just before arriving at Riley and due to the unusually heavy snows and subsequent melt, this would be difficult. Even for the monster trucks that the locals drive! We didn't attempt it. I think you must have an all wheel drive vehicle with some decent ground clearance for many of these adventures. 

Which leads me to the next picture (what a segway!!)
Not for nothin, but we finally bit the bullet and bought an all wheel drive vehicle with decent ground clearance, a Subaru Forester. So far, it has exceeded all of our expectations and opened up an all new genre of exploration. 

Now, on to caveat emptor,
FOOD. Many of these small towns have very limited food choices. Magdalena for example, has two restaurants open for dinner, provided it's between Thursday and Sunday.
Except Saturday.
Then it's one.
Now, I'm not saying that the food is not good. Quite the contrary. Considering the size of these towns, it's fine. And as long as you like steak, order anything on the menu. Provided it's steak (OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but not too much!)
The place pictured above is in Datil, on the other side of the VLA. We went there because it was Saturday and on Saturday.....well you know.
Good steak. 
But you'll have to eat under the unrelenting stare of the deer above the table. 
I don't think the deer approved!

Still more blog postings to come about our trips to New Mexico, Arizona and adventures with the Subaru.
And don't forget. As always. just left click on any picture with your mouse to see a full size version.