weblog - 2006 


December 31, Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_06 (54).JPG (47707 bytes)Tahoe_06 (68).jpg (62345 bytes)The champagne is on ice and the steaks are ready for the barbeque as we anticipate New Years Eve at the lake.  Yesterday we planned to go ice skating at Northstar.  When we got to the rink, there were no skates to be rented.  They did have a bungee jumping machine which Katie thought looked like fun.  After an hour waiting in line, Katie got her turn to fly.  Based on her ear-to-ear grin it was the highlight of her trip so far.  There is still a little snow on the hill behind our condo so Johnny got some rides on his saucer.

December 26, Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_06 (5).JPG (62045 bytes)Tahoe_06 (29).JPG (51070 bytes)Tahoe_06 (65).JPG (61309 bytes)The annual Levy-Solomons winter get together is underway.  All of the Solomons (Andy, Johnny, Katie, Margaret, Mark) hit the ski slopes, while the Levys (Lew, Mike, Monica, Pat) took a short winter cruise on the M.S. Dixie.  The weather is beautiful, but there is a real shortage of snow.  The sunsets are spectacular.


December 16, Houston

pbs.jpg (61593 bytes)The Bridge Unit volunteered to take pledges for Houston Public Television's annual telethon.  Somehow we got assigned to the phones which received a majority of the calls.  Lew took one call where a man pledged $2,000, which was pretty exciting.  All told the Unit took in pledges of around $6,000.  No commissions but they did served us take-out from P. F. Chang and we got to see an old John Denver concert during the breaks.

December 9, Killeen

Harker_12_06.jpg (28).JPG (60005 bytes)Harker_12_06.jpg (12).JPG (126695 bytes)Harker_12_06.jpg (16).JPG (53786 bytes)Harker_12_06.jpg (7).JPG (69486 bytes)To welcome Mark home, the Texas branch of the family gathered in Killeen.  Jan and Dick drove up from Austin, Andy and Deanna came down from Dallas, Lew and Pat drove over from Houston as did Margaret's sister Jeannie and her family.  Mark's glory came to an abrupt end as he was drafted to rake leaves.  A new member of the family was introduced this weekend.  His name is Henry, a West Highland Terrorist (Terrrier).

December 6, Killeen

Great news!  Mark has completed his tour of duty in Iraq and is home safe and sound in Killeen.  He has been promoted to Lt. Colonel and is looking forward to spending time with his family.

November 20, Honolulu

bam.jpg (54786 bytes)The American Contract Bridge League is holding the Fall Nationals in Honolulu this week.  Pat and her partner from Houston, Esta Van Zandt, joined up with four other women to challenge for the Womens Team championship.  They almost pulled it off finishing in fifth place.  The four teams they trailed were all professionals and/or world champions.  Well done!

November 18, Honolulu

DolmanReunion (11).jpg (68182 bytes)DolmanReunion (22).jpg (76140 bytes)Pat was feted at a Dolman Associates reunion hosted by Vi Dolman and Jackie Jones.  Approximately 50 agents formerly managed by Pat attended to celebrate her presence in Hawaii.  She received so many leis that she looked like a Punahou graduate.


November 13, Houston

quest.JPG (81166 bytes)Every year the Houston World Affairs Council holds a current events knowledge contest called WorldQuest. Most of the teams represent universities or corporations, but the Council puts unaffiliated contestants on a team called the Secretary Generalists.This year, unbeknownst to your webmaster, his  wife entered him in the contest and he was assigned to the unaffiliated team.  Result?....a respectable second place finish.


November 11, Houston

Pat had a luncheon for a friend who is moving to Poland.  Authentic Polish food, including pirogys and golabkis, was served and enjoyed.  Right now we are getting ready for a trip to Honolulu on Tuesday.  It will be our second trip to Hawaii this year after not having gone at all in 2005.

October 21, Rockport

Rockport2006_ (7).JPG (97963 bytes)Rockport2006_ (3).JPG (50332 bytes)Rockport2006_ (13).JPG (39919 bytes)This one of our favorite spots in Texas.   We came down to play in a bridge tournament but found time to do a lot of sightseeing.  The Rockport-Fulton area is one of the country's best for viewing shorebirds and marsh waders.  The seafood industry is active so great fresh shrimp and oysters are readily available.  Jumbo shrimp purchased from the boats in the harbor can be had for $3/pound.  Here the fishermen are separating the shrimp from the small fish which are consumed by a flock of pelicans that wait around for lunch.

October 5, Houston

butts.jpg (153728 bytes)Every time I visit my doctor at the medical center I walk past this sign and chuckle.  This is not trick photography.  The sign can be seen on the 23rd floor of the Smith Tower.



September 28, Tillamook, Oregon

coast.jpg (60250 bytes)PICT0192.jpg (155494 bytes)We took a day off from the bridge tournament and toured the Oregon northwest coast.  This part of the country is very scenic.  A highlight of the ride was the Tillamook cheese factory.  There is a self-guided tour of the packaging plant which looks like a nightmare from the industrial revolution.  Hard to imagine working in this plant eight hours a day.  Ever wonder what they did with the part of the milk that doesn't go into cheese?  Well they turn it into great ice cream.  After sampling several promising flavors, I settled on Tillamook Mudslide.  Outstanding.


September 26, Astoria, Oregon

PICT0164.jpg (61725 bytes)PICT0165X.jpg (40885 bytes)This place is famous for bad weather, but it couldn't have been nicer today.  We drove up to the Astoria Column, a prominent local landmark.  We trudged up 164 stairs to get to the top and saw a truly spectacular view of the mouth of the Columbia River.  There is a bridge across the river to Washington.  When it was built some thirty years ago, the politicians said they would stopped collecting tolls when the bridge was paid for.  I know this is hard to believe, but a short time ago the bridge was paid for and they dismantled the toll booths.  Courteous police officers and politicians who fulfill their promises - what a place.

September 25, Seaside, Oregon

We are here for a bridge tournament and to see the northwest Oregon coast.  We rented a Cherokee at the Portland airport and drove over to the coast.  We played an evening game and then went out for a snack at the only restaurant open after 10:00 PM.  We parked outside on the street which was pretty much deserted.  About ten minutes later a couple of police officers came in looking for the driver of a jeep illegally parked outside.  When I identified myself, one of the officers said (without sarcasm) "Sir, would you mind moving your vehicle.  Otherwise we will have to have it towed".  After I moved to a legal place, they thanked me and went on their way.  I like this town.

September 11, Twain Harte

TwainHarte06 (54).jpg (60971 bytes)It's Pat's birthday, and Nancy has produced a fine rum cake.  Pat musters all of her strength to blow out the candles.  Later she celebrated by teaming with Packy to blitz me and Nancy in a cut-throat game of cribbage.


September 9, Twain Harte

TwainHarte06 (7).jpg (78467 bytes)TwainHarte06 (14).jpg (131733 bytes)We're here to visit Nancy and Packy Maxwell in this mountain village not far from the scene of the Gold Rush.  We had been here in the winter but never before i the summer.  This is a beautiful area year-round.  We drove up to the town of Murphys where many of the local wineries have tastings.  The wines are good and the people are friendly.  We stopped at the Stevenot winery and had a little picnic, washing down our food with a fine Verdelho.  Although we are in Calaveras County we see no frogs.

September 8, Bodega Bay

Petaluma (51).jpg (30465 bytes)Petaluma (79).jpg (57071 bytes)When we departed Petaluma it was a beautiful sunny day.  In less than 30 minutes we were at Bodega Bay where it was overcast and a little chilly.  This is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his classic "The Birds". There were plenty of black and white photo ops.  We continued north to Healdsville and the Russian River valley to taste some wines. Pretty good way to spend a few hours.

September 7, Petaluma

Petaluma (30).jpg (112626 bytes)Petaluma (31).jpg (71675 bytes)Petaluma (32).JPG (51735 bytes)We are visiting Sharon and Brian Olesky, friends from Houston who have relocated to northern California.  We were charmed by their twin grandsons Milo and Huck, granddaughter Annabella, and a Maltese named Sidney.  I'm worried about losing my curmudgeon status. 

September 6, Houston

Our trip to the west coast got off to an interesting start.  On boarding the plane to Oakland I found a man occupying my seat.  I summoned a flight attendant who asked to see the man's boarding pass.  He produced a ticket that said Lewis Levy seat 6C.  Aha, I said, the man has my boarding pass.  Wrong!  He and I had the same name.  The flight attendant resolved the issue by sending my namesake to the back of the plane, while allowing me to sit in 6C, right next to a woman with an infant in her lap.  I think the other guy won.

August 11, Honolulu

Foster (24).JPG (90967 bytes)Foster (8).JPG (101404 bytes)Foster Botanical Gardens is one of those places that we always plan to visit when living in Honolulu but never seem to find the time.  We took advantage of our week as tourists and had a guided tour.  The collection of tropical plants is colorful and interesting.  The tree on the left is a baobab, native to Africa.  Click here to see a gallery of pictures from the FOSTER BOTANICAL GARDENS.  We finished the tourist trail by braving the winds at the Pali Lookout for a view of Kailua and Kaneohe.

August 10, Honolulu

Oahu06 (81).JPG (117800 bytes)Oahu06 (89).JPG (51265 bytes)Oahu06 (92).JPG (36287 bytes)We are enjoying being tourists in Waikiki, something we never did when we lived in Honolulu.  Tonight we went to the  Hale Koa luau.  Better than average luau food - I passed on the poi and lomi lomi salmon, but enjoyed the kalua pig, sweet potato and teriyaki chicken.  No poke or luau squid but there was haupia for dessert.  Katie showed up in a hula skirt but was not part of the show (also better than average).

August 8, Honolulu

SLP1.JPG (106798 bytes)SLP2.jpg (82052 bytes)We traveled to Oahu's windward side to visit the venerable Sea Life Park, one of Hawaii's first man-made tourist attractions.  In truth the park is getting a little tired.  It appears that the only thing that has been updated in the 42 years that it has been open is the entry fee.  Never mind - it was a gorgeous day and the kids enjoyed feeding the turtles, and watching the dolphin and sea lion shows.

August 7, Honolulu

HaleKoa1.JPG (82332 bytes)HaleKoa3.JPG (61007 bytes)HaleKoa2.JPG (56448 bytes)We are staying in Waikiki at the Hale Koa Hotel which is operated for active duty military, military retirees, and their guests.  It is a great facility with beautifully landscaped grounds, easy beach access, and a swimming pool that can be enjoyed by kids and adults.  

August 6, Honolulu

Oaua06 (24).JPG (115483 bytes)Oaua06 (25).JPG (89968 bytes)Oaua06 (15).JPG (73942 bytes)Ross and Kelly are in Honolulu for the 20 year reunion of Ross's Mid-Pacific high school graduation.  They joined us for a visit to the Honolulu Aquarium where Katie and Johnny got to handle some sea creatures.  I think the animals were a little on the slimy side.  There were a lot of interesting fish to be seen including this scorpion fish.

August 3, Kauai

Kauai06 (180).JPG (86999 bytes)Kauai06 (185).JPG (84712 bytes)Kauai06 (182).JPG (102833 bytes)Kauai06 (167).JPG (161698 bytes)Another day of spectacular scenery as we motored up to the extreme north of the island - beyond Princeville and Hanalei to Haena State Park.  On the way we stopped at the Kilauea lighthouse and saw the great bird colony in residence there.  In addition to the sea birds the lighthouse has a colony of nene geese (the state bird) which has gotten used to mingling with the human visitors.  The facility is government owned and operated.  They provide binoculars to all the visitors.  The day had a perfect ending with a beautiful rainbow visible from our front yard.

August 2, Kauai

DSCN1854.JPG (88526 bytes)Kauai06 (160).JPG (102384 bytes)Kauai06 (134).JPG (183368 bytes)The highlight of the trip so far was Cap'n Andy's sunset dinner cruise to the Na Pali coast.  The seas were calm, the food and drink were good, the weather beautiful and the scenery was spectacular.  The captain and crew were great - they even let Johnny and Katie drive the boat for a while.  The Na Pali coast is accessible only by boat or by a treacherous 11 mile hike.  We spotted three intrepid hikers on the trail.  They can be seen in the photo on the right.

August 1, Kauai

hiblog (7).JPG (81527 bytes)hiblog.JPG (68340 bytes)Deep sea fishing in Hawaii can be very exciting.  On the other hand when the fish aren't biting....well these pictures of Mike and Johnny give you the idea.

July 31, Kauai

hiblog (4).JPG (72011 bytes)hiblog (5).JPG (96439 bytes)hiblog (8).JPG (93841 bytes)This is a big day for Margaret.  Not only is it her birthday, it's also the anniversary of her marriage to Mark.  We celebrated with a nice dinner at the Poipu Beach Broiler.  We also celebrated Mark's making the promotion list for Lt. Col.

 Earlier in the day we went to the annual Koloa Days Rodeo.  This is a long way to go from Houston to see a rodeo.

July 30, Kauai

hiblog (2).JPG (83309 bytes)hiblog (3).JPG (55854 bytes)hiblog (10).JPG (72521 bytes)We rented an old house on Brenneke's Beach in Poipu so Andy and Mark could relive their glory days of body surfing.  The boys did pretty well considering their advancing age.  Johnny stayed near the shoreline and was surprised by a late-breaking wave.

July 28, Honolulu

hiblog (1).JPG (88919 bytes)A happy coincidence - as we  exited our flight in the Honolulu there was Mark exiting his his flight from the Middle East (by way of Atlanta).  Needless to say his mother was proud and happy to see him.  After a short layover we flew over to Kauai to start Mark's R&R before he has to return to Iraq.

July 21, New York

For a change of pace, we took in a musical adaptation of the Michael Caine - Steve Martin movie "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels".  We found it to be very entertaining.  The music was bright and the lyrics were very clever.  To the best of my recollection, the story line was pretty faithful to the movie, but it has been almost twenty years since I've seen it.

July 20, New York

Adele.jpg (46864 bytes)A painting by Gustav Klimt named "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer" recently sold for $135 million, the most ever paid for a work of art.  It was on display at the Neue Gallery in N.Y. so we made a trek uptown to see it in the morning.  It is beautiful but I wouldn't have paid that much.

In the evening we saw "The History Boys".  We had been looking forward to seeing our first Allen Bennett play and this Tony award winner did not disappoint.  The writing was masterful and the acting flawless.  We had a little trouble picking up the dialogue so we bought a copy of the script on the way out of the theater.  Well worth the effort.

July 19, New York

In town for a wedding, we decided to take in a few plays.  Tonight we saw Faith Healer starring Ralph Fiennes.  The play consisted of four monologues, the first and last by Fiennes in the title role, and the second and third by his wife and his manager.  At no time is there more than one person on the stage.  First class acting and an interesting story.

June 20, Rapid City, South Dakota

S Dak 06 (206).JPG (110681 bytes)S Dak 06 (112).JPG (128079 bytes)Pat SD10002.jpg (57803 bytes)S Dak 06 (49).JPG (110938 bytes)We decided to make this the base camp for our exploration of the Badlands and the Black Hills.  The Badlands are interesting but start to get repetitive after a while.  We made the obligatory visits to Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse memorial where we bumped into Pat's niece Grace and her two kids.  What we most enjoyed was driving around Custer State Park.  Lots of wildlife and very few people.  Driving on the Needles Highway and the Iron Mountain Road were highlights.

June 18, Pierre, South Dakota

S Dak 06 (44).JPG (74206 bytes)After one final family gathering, - breakfast at Perkins restaurant - we headed west.  Not wanting to drive all the way to the Black Hills, we elected to stay overnight in Pierre, the state capital.  It's a quiet little town situated on the Missouri River.  According to one of my guide books the top restaurant in town is the A&W drive-in.  That about says it all.

June 17, Brookings, South Dakota

S Dak 06 (22).JPG (95307 bytes)Campus tours and other family events were planned during the day including lunch at Nick's purportedly the home of South Dakota's best hamburgers.  They were mighty tasty but pretty high in trans-fats.  The gala at night was first class with wines provided by J. Lohr, one of the school's distinguished graduates.  The speeches and award ceremonies were a bit lengthy but a classical music performed by SDSU graduates was very professional.  Pat got to spend some time with her sister Dolly and cousins she had never met before this weekend. (click here for more on the reunion)

June 16, Brookings, South Dakota

S Dak 06 (9).JPG (95658 bytes)S Dak 06 (15).JPG (87395 bytes)Brookings is the home of South Dakota State University, the largest institution of higher education in the state.  In commemoration of its 125th anniversary, the school invited the families and descendants of all of its past presidents to attend a gala dinner dance on Saturday night.  Pat's paternal grandfather was one of the school's longest serving presidents.  Her Uncle George Brown (younger brother of Pat's father) organized a family reunion around the ceremony and had the largest family group in attendance.  For the most part Pat had never met the relatives in attendance.  At an informal family dinner Friday night each person told the group who they were and how they were related to the honoree.  The family historians were busy making charts.  Uncle George was honored with a wooden flower.

June 16, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

S Dak 06 (1).JPG (124546 bytes)We're on our way to a Brown family reunion in Brookings, S.D.  This is the nearest airport.  It's not immediately obvious why, but Sioux Falls must be a terrorist target because there is a large Homeland Security office here.  Your tax dollars at work.  With some time to kill, we visited the falls. formerly a power source for a large flour mill.  After the mill was destroyed in a fire, the ruins and the area surrounding the falls were converted to a a very attractive park.

June 13, Houston

23rd anniv.JPG (58189 bytes)We're still recovering from jet lag and "enjoying" Houston's spring weather.  The outside temperature gauge in the car was at 102 deg this afternoon.  We will have all the bags unpacked and the clothes washed by Friday morning when we leave for South Dakota.  Pat and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary Sunday night with a wonderful dinner at the Capital Grille.  Everybody in Houston has a favorite steak house.  The Capital Grille is ours.

June 4, Houston

After a long day of flying, we arrived home at 7:00 PM, but our body clocks were still 7 hours ahead.  Good to be home.

June 3, Lisbon

To break up the trip to Houston, we flew to Lisbon and spent the night.  After freezing in Prague, we thawed out in Lisbon's 90+ degree weather.  We took a tram to the Alto area and found an interesting bar overlooking the Tagus River.  After a couple of beers we wandered back down the hill and found a crowded restaurant so we went in.  We were seated at a long table and struck up a conversation with some local folks who introduced us to the local specialty, tiny snails cooked with garlic and oregano.  Delicious.

June  2, Prague

Prague06_0128.JPG (68076 bytes)Prague06_0117.JPG (111907 bytes)We spent the morning at the Prague Castle.  Wall-to-wall tourists.  Most are following flag-toting tour guides.  It appears that every tourist has a digital camera.  If I had any stock in Kodak or Fuji I would sell ASAP.  The castle itself is spectacular and the views of the city are great.  At night we went to performance of Verdi's Nabucco at the State Opera House.  Tickets are cheap relative to the US so we sat in the third row and really enjoyed the music.

June 1, Prague

Prague06_0077.JPG (88601 bytes)Prague06_0041.JPG (110477 bytes)What happened to spring?  The temperature is ranging between the mid-forties and low fifties, it's raining on and off, and the wind is blowing.  However we soldiered on, hitting the tourist high spots.  Public transport is very easy and convenient here.  The only problem is that all the station names look alike.  The old town square looks like a movie set for a fairy tale.  We went to a puppet show of Don Giovanni and had dinner in a great restaurant recommended by a friend.

May 31, Prague

Prague06_0003.JPG (80844 bytes)The four hour train ride from Vienna was very relaxing as we passed through miles of lush countryside.  The weather is still overcast, windy, and cold.  We walked across the Charles Bridge, but headed back to the hotel after an hour or so to warm up.


May 29, Vienna

Vienna06 (34).JPG (82936 bytes)Vienna06 (92).JPG (58758 bytes)In a variation of the old man bites dog story, a bank robbed a man (me).  A bank ATM rejected my PIN code and did not disperse any cash.  However when I checked my bank balance on the internet the money had been transferred to the Austrian bank.  When I went to the bank the next day they denied any responsibility and said that I had to contact the maker of the ATM machine to get my money back.  VISA is trying to bring these criminals to justice.  Other than that episode, and the fact that the temperature was in the high forties, with some rain and wind, we enjoyed Vienna very much. It is a great city.  We went to an excellent  Mozart concert and tracked down monuments to many of the great musicians who lived and worked here.  The summer palace of the Hapsburgs was very impressive, but unfortunately no photographs were permitted inside the buildings.

May 28, Budapest to Vienna

We bought a first class train ticket at the station in Budapest.  This entitled us to two seats in a six seat compartment.  We were joined by a couple from Alaska, the wife originally from Germany, and a German couple who didn't speak English.  Shortly after we left the station a conductor, who spoke a few words of German and none in English informed us that we had to leave because three women and a small child had reserved out compartment.  The German man argued that there was no reserved sign on the compartment and told the conductor that we weren't going to move.  As we were congratulating him the police arrived with a passenger who spoke Hungarian and German who volunteered to mediate.  We got a little nervous when the police started grabbing their clubs.  We were getting an interpretation from the German-American woman.  After almost an hour (I'm not exaggerating) the problem was identified.  There were only four seats left and they were in a smoking compartment.  The mother did not want her child exposed to the smoke.  The tough-talking German was charmed by the one year old girl and gave up his seats, as did the Alaskans who by now had become fast friends with the Germans.  The smokers agreed to only smoke in the hall so everyone ended up happy.  The little girl was cute, but we could have done without the diaper  changes.

May 27, Budapest

Buda06 (101).JPG (92974 bytes)Buda06 (131).JPG (119628 bytes)Two days is not nearly enough time to see this magnificent city.  We took an open air bus tour which included the castle on the hilly Buda side.  The view of the city from the castle is magnificent. Most of the highlights are on the flat Pest side where our hotel was located.  We saw the old Moorish-looking synagogue which has recently undergone a ten year restoration and looks terrific.


May 26, Budapest

Buda06 (1).JPG (71230 bytes)We arrived in Budapest after a 3+ hour flight from Lisbon.  With all the waiting around at airports these days a trip of that length chews up the better part of a day.  We did manage to hike and bike through Margaret Island and take a night Danube river cruise after we arrived at  our hotel at 4:30 PM.  Dinner was put off until 11:00 PM, late even by European standards.


May 25, Queluz

Queluz06 (1).JPG (103947 bytes)Queluz06 (79).jpg (81828 bytes)Our last night in Portugal was sent at the stylish Pousada Dona Maria, preserved and upgraded servants quarters across the street from the Queluz palace.  The drive down from Bucašo was long but relatively easy.  We arrived in time to spend 30 minutes at the palace.  Opulent does not begin to describe the lifestyle of Portuguese royalty. The pousadas in Portugal are run by the government in historical settings and they are first class in every way.  We had dinner in the pousada's restaurant and enjoyed on of the finest meals we have ever had anywhere.  

May 24, Bucašo

Busaco06 (93).JPG (117137 bytes)Busaco06 (139).JPG (64411 bytes)Getting out of Porto is a lot easier than getting in.  The drive south to Bucašo was without incident.  The Palace Hotel is a converted royal hunting lodge.  The hotel is getting a little tired but it still reflects a glorious past.  The estate bottled wine, not available anywhere else was the best we've had on this trip.  It turned out that our day in Bucašo was the date of a religious festival held on the hotel grounds.  It was fun talking with the local people and seeing them in their traditional garb.


May 23, Porto

Porto06_0108.JPG (133854 bytes)Porto06_0057.JPG (87520 bytes)Getting lost in Guimaraes was nothing compared to getting lost in Porto.  We knew if we made it to the river we could find our hotel but there were no signs that gave us any help.  We stopped several people to ask directions but no help was forthcoming.  We had three maps but could never find any correlation street signs to maps.  After about an hour of aimless wandering we saw the river and made our way into town.  Tomorrow we are going to a place that doesn't even show up on the detailed map supplied by Avis.  Should be interesting.

May 22, Guimaraes

Guimaraes06 (20).JPG (116537 bytes)Guimaraes06 (14).JPG (95571 bytes)Getting lost in Viseu was nothing compared to getting lost in Guimaraes.  We asked directions at a gas station and we were sent to the wrong town.  We called the owner who told us to return to Guimaraes, get to a landmark and call.  We made it to a shopping center and after three more calls made it to the manor house.  What a place.  Our room was in the old wing built around 1300.  The new wing was built around 1650.  The place was charming but very dark and very cold.

May 21, Viseu

Viseu06 (11).JPG (67345 bytes)Conimbriga06 (28).JPG (112082 bytes)Getting lost in Ďbidos was nothing compared to getting lost in Viseu.  We got to the city center and asked a policeman for directions to our manor house.  Didn't help.  We decided our best hope was to go to a landmark (a hospital) and call the owner.  Fortunately he was home and volunteered to meet us at the hospital and lead us to the house.  The rooms were on the fourth floor and of course there was no elevator.  Most of our stuff stayed in the car overnight.  On the way north we saw some amazing Roman ruins in Conimbriga. 


May 20, Ďbidos

Obidos06_0011.JPG (112892 bytes)Obidos06_0034.JPG (71404 bytes)We rented a car at the Lisbon airport and made our way to Ďbidos but got lost trying to find our hotel. We knew it was somewhere inside the city walls but couldn't find an opening big enough to drive a car through.  Eventually we tucked in the mirrors, held our breath and gave it a try.  We got lost inside the walls but someone pointed us in the right direction.  We found out later we had come through the large wall opening.  We went through the small opening later and made it through in only five minutes or so after much maneuvering.  The hotel and city were unforgettable.  

May 17, Madeira

Madeira06_0273.JPG (176232 bytes)Madeira06_0044.JPG (63627 bytes)Yesterday we went on a guided tour of the island.  We saw some amazing views but encountered rain on the north shore and in the mountains.   We got to see some colorful fishing villages and went to Calheta we saw the islands only sand beach.  The sand was imported from Morocco, the closest landfall.  Today we struck out on our own and took a cable car up to the botanical gardens.  The gardens were impressive and so is the rare bird collection.  We found a peacock who liked to show off. For the thrill of a lifetime, we came down from the gardens on a wooden toboggan.  As this mural shows, this means of transport has been in use for over 100 years

May 15, Madeira

Madeira06_0058.JPG (103884 bytes)Paradise found.  Warm days with gentle breezes, cool nights, friendly people and beauty everywhere you look.  Despite its small size and remote location Madeira has excellent infrastructure.  The roads are very good, and there is an extensive network of tunnels and bridges which makes it easy to travel all over the island.  There is even free wireless internet throughout the downtown area of Funchal, the capital.  I was able to get my emails on my Palm Pilot sitting in an outdoor cafe drinking a beer.

May 13, Nassau

phisig0048.JPG (62156 bytes)phisig67.JPG (113061 bytes)We rented a car with another couple and had the experience of driving on the left with a left-hand drive car.  Very disconcerting.  On the southern side of the island we ran across some female figures carved out of wood.  We think that it has some religious significance.   We ended up driving to Paradise Island and the Atlantis Hotel.   Compared to this place Las Vegas has understated good taste.



May 12, Coco Cay

This small island exists solely for the amusement of Royal Caribbean customers.  There is a nature walk where you can see flies and other insects in their natural habitat.


May 12, Miami

phisig16.JPG (72215 bytes)The adventure begins.  We fly to Miami in time to board the Majesty of the Seas for the bi-annual RPI Phi Sigma Delta reunion.  As a benefit of sailing as a group Royal Caribbean hosted a private sail-away party for us with free drinks and appetizers in the Viking Lounge.  Unfortunately they told us it was going to be in the Chorus Line Lounge.  It took about a half hour to sort this out but eventually everything turned out well.


May 10, Iraq

The Hound Herald.jpg (112920 bytes)Mark tells us that things are going in the right direction in Iraq.  Here is an excerpt from the Fourth ID newsletter showing Mark participating in a humanitarian supply effort.


May 1, Houston

We  have planned our annual getaway from the Houston summer heat.  Between now and August 15  we have reservations for 21 airline flights, 2 train segments, and rooms in 18 different hotels.  

Apr 17, Austin

easter_06_0045 (2).JPG (108884 bytes)Copy of easter_06_0066 (2).JPG (95450 bytes)Easter at Dick and Jann Brown's house in Austin has become an expanding tradition.  This year there were 34 guests.  Margaret drove down from Killeen with Johnny and Katie who were at their cutest.  Johnny participated in the egg toss and somehow avoided getting raw egg on his new shirt.


Apr 4, Augusta

masters.jpg (33124 bytes)We made it to Augusta National for the Masters practice round.  The weather could not have been better.  The golf course is beautiful.  We followed Tiger Woods for a while.  He was in the first group to tee off so we just saw him for the last few holes.  After that we watched Phil, Ernie, Vijay and all the other big stars.  We even got to stand next to Arnold Palmer.  Click here to see more pictures.


Apr 2, Atlanta

Georgia_06 (16).JPG (41451 bytes)Georgia_06_phone (24).jpg (267961 bytes)We went to Buckhead, Atlanta's high rent district, to have a look around.  It is very impressive.  Not too far away is the High museum, a very interesting facility with a so-so permanent collection, but some very interesting temporary exhibits.  At night we saw a Maureen McGovern in a musical  adaptation of Luisa Mae Alcott's Little Women. The show was staged at the Fox Theater, right across the street from our hotel.  We also visited the World of Coke where Pat actually sampled the product.

Apr 1, Atlanta

Georgia_06 (14).JPG (38351 bytes)Atlanta's most famous residents are a pair of panda bears on display at Zoo Atlanta.  We paid them a visit via a city bus.  They were mostly interested in eating bamboo.  At night we went to the Phillips Arena to see the Atlanta Thrashers take the measure of the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2.  A good game in a first-class facility.  Like almost everything in Atlanta, the arena is easily accessible on MARTA, the local train/bus system.

Mar 31, Atlanta

Georgia_06 (2).JPG (45837 bytes)We've never been to Atlanta, so we stopped for a few days on our way to Augusta to have a look around.  At the top of our priority was a visit to the new Georgia Aquarium, now the top tourist attraction in the state.  There are plusses and minuses.  On the positive side is the open ocean display which features two immense whale sharks.  The negatives are the crowds and the theme park feel of the facility.  On balance, a must-see.

Mar 28, Houston

golda.jpg (192375 bytes)We went to see Valerie Harper in Golda's Balcony tonight.  Harper is excellent, and the staging is first-rate.  If this traveling production comes to your town try to see it.


Mar 23, Houston

I used to get spam emails advertising porn sites.  Then I started getting spam emails offering Viagra at a discount.  The porno emails have stopped, but now I get daily spam emails about hot oil and gas stocks.  I think this trend means something but I'm not sure what.  I guess I'll worry when I start getting emails ads for Depends.

Mar 14, Houston

easter cards_1.jpg (64075 bytes)easter cards_2.jpg (62297 bytes)easter2.jpg (26819 bytes)To support our troops in Iraq, Pat organized approximately 20 bridge players to remain after the regular Tuesday morning game to make Easter cards.  Greeting cards are in short supply in Iraq, so these will be shipped to Mark who will see that they are distributed to the soldiers to send home. The cards that they created were very professional and will be appreciated.

Mar 12, Galveston

Galveston_06_0034.JPG (60667 bytes)A visit to Moody Gardens is always entertaining and informative.  We went to the aquarium and to the Imax theater.  The aquarium has a number of exhibits where you can touch the sea animals, but Katie and Johnny pretty much kept their hands in their pockets.

Mar 11, Galveston

Galveston_06_0013.JPG (88131 bytes)Galveston_06_0018.JPG (60611 bytes)Margaret and some friends rented a house on the beach in Galveston, so we drove down to visit with her, Johnny and Katie.  The water here is never that great, but today it was less than inviting as a variety of creatures washed up on the shore.  One of these may have been a form of jellyfish, but it may also have been a capsule from outer space.  Its shell was hard as a rock as verified by Pat

Feb 25, Houston

I can't believe I just watched the Men's 15KM Biathlon.  Guess I'm a candidate for Olympics Anonymous. 

Feb 19, Houston

Bday__0015.JPG (44019 bytes)I was right.  Pat invited a few friends over to help me celebrate my birthday.  Dianna Gittelman baked a rum cake, my all-time favorite.  Note that the cake was not nearly large enough to accommodate a candle for each year.

Feb 18, Houston

Bday__0001.jpg (43864 bytes)I saw some balloons in the dining room so I think Pat is planning a surprise birthday party for me.


Feb 6, Houston

This time we're really home.  We spent the weekend in Florida to attend a wedding, but plan to stay in Houston for the rest of the month.

Jan 31, Houston

We are home after a wonderful three weeks in Australia.  See the pictures Here. We left Melbourne on Saturday morning and arrived in Houston on Saturday afternoon.  Sounds easy but because we crossed the international date line the trip was actually 27 hour door-to-door.  Believe it or not, we went to an opera (Don Pasquale) on Sunday afternoon, and another on Tuesday evening (Manon Lescaut), and managed to stay awake (almost).  Pat returned to the bridge wars on Monday morning.  Next trip is Friday morning when we go to Florida.

Jan 24, Sunshine Coast

SUN0017.JPG (48676 bytes)SUN0038.JPG (87538 bytes)SUN0043.jpg (76428 bytes)We spent our final day on the Sunshine Coast sightseeing from Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north.  At a national park in Noosa we saw some interesting wildlife including a ringed-tailed possum and a Kookaburra.

Jan 23, Sunshine Coast

SUN0030.JPG (76112 bytes)Lew and Paul headed out to the fishing grounds at 5:30 AM while Pat and Judy went for a stroll on the beach.  There was plenty of fishing action as a school of spotted mackerel found our bait attractive.  We boated three including this one that measured just over three feet long.  Paul cleaned the fish and later made a very tasty Thai fish curry for dinner.


Jan 22, Sunshine Coast

SUN0007.JPG (85771 bytes)SUN0004.JPG (78338 bytes)The Sunshine Coast lies about 100 km north of Brisbane.  Friends of ours from Rio de Janeiro retired here and invited us up.  We flew into Maroochydore and then drove to Mooloolaba to see Paul and Judy Hughes at their beautiful home on a canal which has access to the ocean.  The feel of this place is as close to Hawaii as we've ever experienced.  

Jan 20, Melbourne

FLEM0032.JPG (93691 bytes)FLEM0034.JPG (86660 bytes)Nothing is quite as Australian as a day at the races.  We took the train to Flemington Race Course, home of the Melbourne Cup.  We got lucky on a couple of two horse quinellas which paid for the rest of the day.  The scenery at the track is rather good.

Jan 19, Melbourne

PIC0028.JPG (70726 bytes)It was a very hot day but we elected to go to the tennis with a ground pass and look for some shade.  We were successful and saw a couple of very good second round matches which featured Anastasia Myskina, the reigning French Open champ.  We finished off the day with a picnic on the banks of the Yarra River.  The view of downtown Melbourne from there is spectacular. 

Jan 18, Melbourne

We walked over to the arts center and saw a new musical called Dusty about the life and times of pop icon Dusty Springfield.  The production was first class, but the singing and dancing was not quite up to Broadway standards.


Jan 17, Melbourne

The Australian Open Tennis Championship is always fun to attend.  We saw four matches won by Mary Pierce, Tommy Haas, Juan Ignacio Chela, and Kim Clijsters.  None of the matches were particularly close, but it was still fun to watch.  

Jan 14, Kyneton

KYN0009.JPG (113452 bytes)KYN0016.JPG (98730 bytes)We spent the weekend with friends Heather Carmody and Anthony Baird at their farm in rural Victoria.  Since our last visit in 2002, a vineyard has been added.  We expect to be quaffing home grown shiraz on our next visit.  

Jan 13, Melbourne

The Commonwealth Games will be held here in a few months, so the Melbourne Cricket Ground is being refurbished.  Cricket has been temporarily shifted to a new stadium, the Telstra Dome.  I saw a rather one-sided match in which Australia crushed Sri Lanka.  Two days later Australia was beaten by South Africa, in case anyone is interested.

Jan 12, Melbourne

Fedsq2.JPG (72775 bytes)Fedsq1.JPG (125483 bytes)Jet lag is slowly losing its effect.  We are eating well but hoping that walking will prevent massive weight gains.  No scale here so not sure if we are succeeding.  We have spent the better part of two days exploring the controversial Federation Square project.  The design of these buildings is very strange.  At first we were totally put off, but the more time you spend here the more sense it makes.

Jan 10, Melbourne

The missing bag has arrived - 40 hours late but apparently none the worse for wear.

Jan 9, Melbourne

Our trip to Australia got off to a slow start as Air New Zealand lost on of our suitcases.  After two days, they apparently have no idea where it is.  They authorized us to buy a large deodorant for two.

Jan 6, Los Angeles

pack.jpg (51177 bytes)On our way to Australia, we stopped in LA to visit Ross and Kelly.  Luckily, it was the day of a reception to show the promo DVD for R&K's proposed TV series called "The Pack".  We met the producers and production people who are all optimistic that they can sell the concept to a network.  The promo DVD is very impressive.  Keep your fingers crossed.

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